Killer Refrigerator – The Fridge and the Power it Holds

killerfridgecover

Self-release

Review by Rick Ossian

Have you ever heard a band jam so hard and so fast that you could swear they were all shredding at the same time?  If you have not, but you would like to, then Killer Refrigerator is the band for you.  Of course, as is the norm, the singer shreds his vocal chords; however, upon listening to The Fridge and the Power it Holds, you will notice that everybody (Cody and Luke) is shredding!  There is some serious jamming going on here, and there are only two folks doing it!  Killer Refrigerator is a side project of sorts from UnKured’s Cody Coon and his fellow fridge-slayer Luke ‘Java’ Sackenheim.

Since their formation, Killer Refrigerator have released an LP, “When Fridges Rule This World” (2014) and this EP, to be released in April.  There is, we are told, also a 2nd LP, “Refrigeration Plague“, coming soon.  For all of the You-Tubers out there, you can also find a 20-minute documentary on the war raging between appliances and people:

On to the tunes!

Terrorvision starts life out with an instrumental frenzy, then drives straight into Riff City.  We get to experience loads of screaming and shredding, even the BASS guitarist does a quick little solo.  We will get to hear more of this later on.  Anybody who is concerned that the tunes are too short (this one clocks in at 1:24) can always search for remixes, I suppose; for now, let us revel in the beauty of the speediness!

Slaystation features one of those heavy metal creepy-cool intros that I am so fond of, then kicks in about 30 seconds into the proceedings.  There is, again, some heady jamming going on here.  Lots of screaming, kind of like the fury of punk and metal mixed, plus shredding on guitar and bass again.  The drummer is, as usual, VERY busy (just try to keep up, I dare you!).  At 1:45, there is a brief departure into techno, almost Nintendo-style.  Why? Who knows?  It is what it is.  At 2:10, the screaming and the growling appear again, and at 2:30 there is a shift.  The three-minute mark finds the bass briefly taking flight again, then we have the title screamed at us a few times.  The four-minute mark has more shred.  If you are beginning to notice a pattern here, do not despair.  It continues!

Shower Thrashing Death (what a great title!) is, as it suggests, totally thrashing, shredding mash-up of all of the instruments, and holy crap it is fast!  At the one-minute mark there is a brief suggestion of growling/rap/spoken word vocalization going on, and at 1:30 Cody hollers NO SHIT!  Then there is a quick bass lick or two, followed by the exclamation, “Oh my god we’re all gonna fuckin die!”  Yikes!

Killer Refrigerator vs. Godzilla starts life out with a brief media blurb of sorts, and is scary and funny at the same time.  The fridge folks claim they are serious – I don’t care, I just dig the tunes!  The main riff kicks in about one minute in, then all hell breaks loose on the road back to Riff City (1:25).  There is an instrumental breakdown of sorts at the two-minute mark, then a shift and a bit of growl to round things out.  At three minutes there is a fade-out.  It is remarkable that the Fridge is capable of stuffing all of these things into a three-minute tune…

Slave to the Easy Bake features a heavy metal Riff City intro, plus growly vocals and everybody shredding (again).  This is some seriously heavy, speedy stuff.  There are also some cool little brief snippets of lead from the guitar AND the bass (again), plus a guitar solo at the two-minute mark.  I thought I heard a bell (ding!) going off at one point, which makes sense, given the title.  At 2:45 there is another instrumental breakdown, and at three minutes we have another growl/scream vocal break.  The bass fades things out at the end.

Next up we have the title track, which includes a heavy drum intro, followed almost immediately by everybody shredding.  There is a growl break at :45, then at two minutes everybody slams again!.  “Freezus Christ”, Cody bellows, and at two-and-a-half minutes there is a guitar solo/everybody jam moment again, followed by another crazy jam at three minutes in.

To Hell With Cancer is the ‘bonus’ track, and contains some sweet opening riffs.  Growling vocals and everybody jamming seems to be the order of the day here again, but it is not really getting old so just enjoy it!  At one minute in Cody yells “let’s get funky!”, then the bass guitar comes to the fore again.  My favorite curse word gets uttered a couple of times, and before you know what hit you, it’s all over.  Sad but true, the screaming, jamming, slamming fest has finished.  I, for one, am looking forward to the next LP!

*****/5

The Black Lantern – We Know the Future

Black Lantern

Northern Records

Review by Rick Ossian

Buy the MP3 HERE

Long Beach, California has an apparent monopoly on powerful pop-punk rock these days, and it’s in the unassuming form of a brilliant quartet named The Black Lantern They have perhaps one of the best and brightest female vocalists off the currently crowded crop as well; her name is Wendy Faraone, and she is happily married to the band’s drummer, Jess Nason.  I am convinced that fans of power pop (Big Star, Raspberries, etc.) and punk rock’s heyday (Ramones, Sluts, etc.) will become fans of The Black Lantern if they only listen!  Their personnel is rounded out by an adept guitarist, Andy Prickett and an absolutely positive rock-solid bassist, Russell Crain.  Some folks don’t realize how difficult it may be to pack your message into a 3-or-4-minute punch; those who are wondering should use these folks as their next listening example.

Every track here is full of piss and vinegar, especially the hard-charging punky opener, A Black Light, which weighs in at just over two minutes in length (Ramones, anyone?).  It will assault your senses and remind you what it’s like to be blasted in the face with a fist full of power pop!  There are choppy licks at the outset, as well as descending riffs that beg to be heard (1:35).  If I were to get really heavily into my description, I would say that they are powerful and energetic.  Vim and vigor aside, if you don’t have well-crafted tunes then you are going to suck anyway.  Fortunately, that is NOT the case with our subjects today.

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I Know You Don’t Know is another powerful vocal experience, just full of energy within and out.  These folks certainly are passionate about what they do.  Their conviction appears to be the order of the day, especially the vocal delivery.  Not to slight the other musicians, however — each of these people are VERY good at what they do.  As mentioned earlier, putting all of your ideas into a basket can be tough when you want your message to hit home in just a few minutes.  You all know how I love prog; well, I love punk and pop as well as classic hard rock/heavy metal.  There is lots of the punk and pop to go around here, and that suits me just fine!

5 Alarm will have you mouthing the word ‘wow’ for just a bit.  At least, that’s what happened to me.  On first listen, it occurs to me that fans and nubes alike will appreciate this stuff.  As I am quite fond of saying, they are NOT for the feint of heart, musically speaking.  You have to be able to handle stuff that has a bit of attitude to it.  There are heavy drums here, but there are also sirens going off, GREAT vocal delivery from Wendy (again), no surprise there.  We also get a very busy, exciting drum beat on this one.  It’s no surprise that Jess and Wendy have the connection that they do, being wed in marital happy-ever-after bliss and all…I was a bit concerned when this tune first began – it reminded me of U2, of all acts!  I recognized Edge’s guitar stylings straight off – then I realized that this was WAY heavier than that; just slightly reminiscent of some earlier U2.  No need to be alarmed!  Again, this one is short but sweet, just over 2 minutes.  That is probably not the greater issue, however.  The greater issue is the powerfully potent lyrics, in this case.  I was particularly struck by the lines ‘Make your move/Give me something to prove’.  There is some excellent jamming going on here as well (1:35).  See what I mean about packing a BIG punch to your time constraints?

Bleed It Out has one of those creepy-cool guitar intros that I just ADORE.  It is combined with a synth riff, of all things, but it could be worse, right?  We get shifted and slammed about a bit here as well, and Wendy hollers at us; ‘What’re you waiting for?‘  There is also some killer riffing (1:15) and a phase shifter guitar solo (3:25).  There are a few shouts of BLEED OUT, then a little jam at the end.  Great stuff!

On Your Knees features a very cool drum intro, absolutely pounding out the rhythm.  It is, again, alas, short but sweet (only a minute and a half), but a VERY potent minute and a half at the very least.  There is also, again, a BIG fat vocal delivery from Wendy (‘What’s inside of you?’).  Some definite wailing punky drum power here.

Anthropomancy, which is evidently a way to divine knowledge of future events by reading a dead guy’s entrails (ew), is a bit longer number for these four; damn near four-and-a-half minutes!  It has a cool punky guitar riff with vocals at the outset, and some excellent riffing throughout.  ‘Just give up!’, Wendy bellows at us, to the accompaniment of some serious Sabbath-style riffage (2:00).  Things turn to atmospheric, psychedelic sludge towards the close, of all things, then we get a fade-out, sort of, at the end.

Helicopter includes some cool chops at the beginning, plus some great riffing and some very heavy, intense vocals (surprise!); ‘You know you can’t be right/Why do you walk away?’  Everything is Nothing features another very powerful drum intro and riffs AGAIN.  Don’t these cats ever get tired of being right?

New Drug is a cover of the old Huey Lewis and the News number, but Wendy and the boys put their powerful pop/punk stamp on it and just rock the crap out of it!  Wendy doesn’t just sing, she does spoken word, she yells, she screams, she really knows how to use the vocal power behind the mic.  This is obviously some sort of rant, which I love.  It is also a common malady amongst musicians!  At the close we have some more psych, only it’s the ambient computer-style psych (PC FX, anyone?).  Beep boop…

Bombs Away has more wicked drum beat(s) for us, and some killer choppy guitar FX at the outset. Sound familiar?  We are getting yelled at again (thanks, Wendy!), but it’s OK, because it works.  We also get some psych guitar and jazzy drums, and some sideways slide psychedelic guitar soloing (briefly).  This could be a punk-style Pink or Pat Benatar, all hopped up on booze and pills or whatever they choose to indulge in…fantastic stuff!  The FX (2:40) and the toy piano and the weird subdued vocal FX at the close are experimental in nature but are beginning to seem common place with this outfit.  They are nothing if not eclectic.

The closing piece, Devolution, has a cool punk riff and the power/pop/punk vibe again.  Wendy O. Williams (Plasmatics) came to mind for some reason…There is ranting and yelling again, and a deranged Iggy-style vocal at one point, then Wendy asks us ‘Who Are You‘ about four or five times, but it’s OK, she’s just making sure we get the message.  Just to make sure she hasn’t lost us, she reiterates her point and asks us ‘Where Are You?’ about four or five times.  ‘Drop your shit and I’ll drop mine/You’re a legend in your own mind’.  What an excellent fucking lyric!

If you didn’t get it by now, I’m pretty excited about this band.  I had considered giving this recording four stars, but it’s plainly a five in my opinion.  I would probably give it a five-and-a-half or a six if I could!

*****/5

Diablo Blvd – Follow The Deadlights

Review by Dave Smiles

Buy the CD HERE and the MP3 HERE

While many seek to reinvent the wheel there are some bands who seem to come out of nowhere who fit amongst the greats. They’ve easily tapped into the formula of writing and performing great songs while not being carbon copies of those who have come before. Diablo Blvd are one of these bands. Familiar enough for the listener to think they sound like something they’ve heard before, yet unique enough that when pressed it’s hard to say exactly who they sound like.

At the front of the band is singer and stand up comedian Alex Agnew who with a unique and powerful voice is able to sing or scream depending on what the songs calls for. Comparisons could be made to Peter Steel, Layne Stanley, James Hetfield, Glenn Danzig and Ian Astbury‘s. At times you may think that this is what WWE superstar The Undertaker would sound like if he fronted a band.

Now in their tenth year the band unleash album number three – Follow The Deadlights, ten well-crafted and performed songs with thoughtful lyrics with structures that are as dynamic as they are heavy. The band creates contrasting feels as they at times break away from the chunky heavy chords to some cleaner breathing spaces. The shifts expertly handled so as not to be jarring to the listener. The guitar solos hold no need to show off, they serve the song and hold a great sense of melody.

The opening track Beyond The Veil sets the pace for the album with the heavy drumming on the toms, as the sustained feedback from the guitars builds tension. This is fun and serious at the same time. The following track Rise Like Lions is a great example how each musician is bringing something of their own to the composition of these songs and how it’s sometimes hard to focus on just one performer. Diverse vocals, screams and singing, though not as predictable as some that have used the contrasting styles in the past.

The stand out rocker Son Of Cain is the first single released from this effort and takes the listener through various sections, settling the listener than taking them to up to a heavy place.

We Are Legion is the anthem track needed for the unrecognized and under-appreciated. It’s a hand out-stretched for any who remain isolated. An empowering track reminding those who are alone that there are people like you still out there. The track Fear Is For The Enemy has an Infectious and instantly memorable chorus. You’ll have this one in your head for days.

End Of Time begins with a slow paced and moody intro before kicking things up a few notches with some sixteenth note chugs and death grunt vocals. The album closer Inhuman is a haunting tale that takes you through a few different moods. A solemn way to finish things off, but perfect motivation to hit play again.

This is the first release from the band after signing to Nuclear Blast, which provides global exposure. This band is sure to go far.

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Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror

beyond_the_red_mirror_earbook

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

Progressive rock.  Symphonic rock.  Classic(al) rock.  Prog metal.  These are all terms that you may have heard before.  They are the beasties that many choose not to acknowledge or speak of, the elephant in the room in a way.  However, when it comes to Krefeld, Germany‘s progressive heroes Blind Guardian, I feel comfortable using the ‘p’ word!  In some ways they defy description.  Not many bands exhibit their passion so plainly, so powerfully as these gentlemen do.  Unless I miscounted, this is album #14 for these fellows, and they have been gracing us with their wares since 1988.  So, in three years, they will have been recording for 30!  Of course, on further investigation, one discovers that two demos were recorded in 85 and 86, not to mention their first band name – Lucifer’s Heritage!  Evidently like-minded prog warriors Fates Warning inspired the name change.  Who knew?

Blind Guardian are Hansi Kursch (vocals), Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen (guitars), and Frederik Ehmke (drums).  They signed with Nuclear Blast in 2005.  From what I’ve managed to discern thus far, they lean heavily in the symphonic direction, as mentioned above.  In fact, in an interview I watched just yesterday they were discussing the use of a string section on their latest work.  If you listen close you can hear violins, violas, cellos, etc., in the background.  We’ve all experienced this phenomena before; however, in the case of the band at hand, it fits like it would in a proper song.  There are many moments here where I was absolutely transfixed by the majesty of the musical arrangements.  Some of the songs even needed multiple airings/hearings to ultimately satisfy my musical needs!

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There are two BIG, epic numbers on Beyond the Red Mirror: the opener, The 9th Wave, and the closing piece, Grand Parade.  Both are nine minutes plus.  In fact, both tunes are almost exactly the same length.  So what are we doing bringing attention to two nine-and-a-half minute tunes?  The reason why is because the formula seems a bit repetitive, and I guess I’m just being a bit critical.  Unfortunately, this is music that I find very difficult being critical about.  There is a bias here, a prejudice even, because I ADORE progressive metal – especially the heavier, darker stuff (Fates Warning, Dream Theater, etc.), so I would be listening still even if these numbers were twice or three times their intended length.

If you’re looking for comparisons, then I believe I can provide a few.  In addition to the groups mentioned above, I was also reminded of Savatage and/or Trans-Siberian Orchestra on several occasions.  Those of you who are fans of these folks will recognize what I’m talking about almost immediately, particularly in the track Twilight of the Gods.  This track features Yngwie-calibre lead playing, not to mention plenty of powerful vocals and slamming drums.  There are also guitar solos, albeit brief ones.  They merely add to the heavenly mix on board.  The choruses are filled with bright, angelic voice(s), and bring to mind all manner of (mostly Swedish) other symphonic, proggy outfits.  I caught myself air drumming trying to keep up with Frederik on numerous occasions!

Prophecies is chock-full of more of the same, stupendous vocals, a veritable extravaganza of pounding instrumentation, and even a melodic guitar solo (3:00).  I began to wonder if we were dealing with Christians here (‘We shall overcome/The king will come/Once upon a dream ago’).  I suppose it matters not.  My religious suspicions aside, there is some serious jamming going on here, with plenty of double-bass drum slamming and LOTS of vocal prowess.

At the Edge of Time is a 7-minute leviathan with a mysterious intro, and everything including the kitchen sink is thrown into this one (is that bells I hear?).  There are also violins and possibly other stringed classical instruments involved.  The words atmospheric and dynamic also came to mind when faced with possible words to describe the ‘mood’ of the intense jamming on display.  We close, lyrically at least, with a neat, if not pompous, phrase; ‘That’s when the ancient gods return!’  So, perhaps NOT Christian, or maybe just excited about writing songs about various deities..?

Ashes of Eternity is in full-on go attack mode, featuring a Maiden-esque gallop (1:25), some heavy hard riffing throughout, a lengthy guitar solo that shreds everything in its immediate vicinity for about 45 seconds, and at the end we are reminded that ‘the saints come marching in‘.  Isn’t that phrase part of another song?  Yes, of course, I am playing devil’s advocate, and you would be correct in accusing me of being facetious.  Again, just try to keep up with the drummer if you dare!

The Holy Grail is a six-minute monster that is extremely heavy at the outset, and the vocals come on very powerfully again.  There is a guitar duel going on (1:45), and a couple of lead guitar solos (2:00 and 3:25).  There is lots of guitar and bass and drums here to revel in, as well as the vocal prowess mentioned above.

The Throne is another 8-minute epic piece about the guy who sits on it (king):’The king will come/it’s over/Give us shelter from the storm’.  I was expressly reminded of TSO again on this number, and hence Savatage as well.  There is an excellent little jam about 4 minutes in, and a couple of nice guitar solos as well.  This is sweeping and grandiose, stately prog at its finest.

Sacred Mind begins life with some weird synth-style riffing and beautifully bright vocals.  There is also a heavy duty double bass drum attack (busy drummer alert!), double slam (2:55), another wicked lead guitar solo (from about 3:55 til 4:40!!), and some speed-shifting, if you will.  The guitar section is more of a duel than anything else; it is also a melodic, complex, compelling duel.  If you are a guitar fan, you most likely will enjoy this piece.

Then we come to Miracle Machine, a short (3 minutes), beautifully plaintive ballad featuring only vocals and piano at first, then some light string action about half-way in.  It is bizarre in its lack of length, for one; also in its musical attitude, if you will.  It is the only ballad on the record, and I don’t recall hearing any bass or drums, either.  If you like this type of tune, then that is fine, but, unfortunately for you, it is the only one of its ilk contained herein.  Everything else is balls-to-the-wall progressive/symphonic madness!

*****/5

Mass Punishment – Proving Grounds Volume 1

masspunishmentcover

Dewar P.R./self-release

Buy the MP3 HERE

Review by Rick Ossian

On first listen to Mass Punishment‘s full-length debut, the first thing I thought was that I am looking forward to Volume 2MP are a four-piece thrash metal band from Howell, New Jersey.  They consist of Eric Laurino, who is the vocalist and ‘pointman’, Chris Spartan, guitar gunner and vocals, Scott Ferguson, bass gunner and vocals, and Brian Donat, drum gunner and vocals.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure how well a ‘military’ thrash band would go over – not only with other listeners, but particularly with myself.  I thought it would be awful!  I shall now proceed to tell all of you how wrong I was.  Incredibly wrong, to say the least.  Have a listen and you won’t be disappointed, trust me!

There are some more regimental moments, if you will.  For example, In To the Fire is mainly a soldier radio-ing in for air support, from the sounds of it.  The Infantryman’s Creed is a spoken word bit that is basically what it says it is, fully equipped with creepy-cool guitar intro and background tunes.  Eye of the Storm is a brief, dirge-like number that is one part doom and gloom, mixed with one part heavy, slamming thrash.

Of course, the latter of the numbers mentioned above is the main direction of the work done here.  Proving Grounds is chock-full of heavily slamming, busy-as-hell drum work ( a bit heavy on the double bass drum here and there, but what meaningful thrash doesn’t have a bit of that in it somewhere?), Sabbath-on-speed guitar licks and heavy, powerful riffing, big booming power chords, ranting, vocal-chord shredding/singing–all the things a growing heavy metal fan needs to be happy!

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On further listening, some tunes begin to stand out, particularly the opening juggernaut, 300 Miles to Baghdad.  There is a heavy sort of rap/rant vocal intro, followed by heavy, military-precision thrash.  ‘We’ll bring war/we’ll bring hate/we’ll bring death/we’ll bring terror‘, bellows Erick – simple lyrics, simple vocals, you might say?  NOT when you listen, trust me in that!  Sure, there is some repetition, but again, this is thrash metal we’re dealing with.  There are times when repetition is the order of the day, like it or not.

Lion’s Den starts things off with a heavily thrashing, galloping intro.  Everything is being seriously shredded here, including the vocals.  MP obviously take a no-holds-barred approach to their jamming.  At 1:50 there is a shift in the vocal territory, then some HM chords/riffing thrown into the mix between 2:00 and 2:30.  Brian (drummer) is very busy again here, doing some amazing drum work that is worth the ride by itself on this particular tune.  More repetitive vocals (I HATE YOU several times)/‘fucking hate you now/hate you too/you know you can’t hide.  The title is also shouted at us a few times towards the end.  If I was going to be critical about anything, it would be that you don’t need to scream your message to be understood.  It CAN be helpful, at times, and here it fits!

The Desert Rogue begins life with another creepy, foreboding guitar intro.  Not sure why, but I really like when a band does this.  It reminds me of one of my all-time faves, Black Sabbath, I guess.  Must be why I enjoy it so much.  But I digress.  There are some straight vocals here also, and VIOLINS, of all things.  They work, but I can’t say how.  This tune almost sounds like it could be a different band.  MP do that again later on, as we shall see/hear.  At four-and-a-half minutes in, we are slammed with a shift, back to the heavy riffing and shredding vocals, with some cool stabs/fills with wah towards the end.

Ground Pounder features, alas, another of the creepy-cool guitar intros.  Fingerpicking is repetitive but good.  The drums come in about a minute in, along with children chanting.  We are slammed at about 1:20, and by the way the straight vocals mentioned above make another brief entry – they don’t last long, however, and before we know it, we are marching: ‘Left, right, left’, hollers Erick.  SEVERAL times, of course, to kind of suck us into the scene.  Brian the drummer is, again, very busy.  Drummer alert!

Blood Dirt features the seriously heavy, Sabbath-on-speed riffing/chords mentioned above.  This is a true onslaught on the ears, particularly in the vocal department.  We get some upshifting/downshifting later on but the style remains basically true to form throughout.

Your Nightmare includes some considerable guitar-squealing at the outset, but there is no doubt that we are listening to another heavy duty slammer here.  The drummer is again very busy, and even gets a moment or two to shine at the end.

The closer, Line of Departure, does everything we’ve already heard again, only heavier, faster and more urgent.  It is a very much in-your-face delivery, as well, nothing short of intense.  I love the Sabbath-style feeling I get from the riffs, the chords, the intro.  Again, Sabbath on speed!  Broken record again, I know, but the drummer is extremely busy here.  We get some more repetitive lyrics (lost count on how many times we got SENT TO HELL!).

Mass Punishment, at the risk of sounding dramatic, are not for the feint of heart.  I know I may have said this before, but I really mean it this time!  If you don’t have a strong stomach and an open mind, then Mass Punishment may not be your bag.  If you think you can handle it, then give them a listen!

****/5

Sylosis – Dormant Heart

sylosisdormantheartcover

Nuclear Blast

Buy the CD HERE or the MP3 HERE

Review by Rick Ossian

Reading’s Sylosis have returned with their fourth full-length offering, Dormant Heart.  Not only is this a clarion call to unite thrashers worldwide; it is a declaration, a statement of intent.  A statement on how to be intense, more like!  This recording is one of the better thrash outings I’ve heard in recent years, and is riddled with the stereotypical thrash stuff (stunning guitar riffs/solos, vocal-chord shredding, trip-hammer double-bass drum pounding, etc.).  However, I think you will find that while listening, you may notice the occasional variation.

For example, in opener Where The Wolves Come To Die, we are suckered in by what sounds very much like the riff to Metallica‘s Enter Sandman.  Do not despair, dear reader – the sensation passes soon.  We are also treated to some pretty neat guitar riffing with this track in addition to the digression mentioned above.  At about one minute in the boys shift to a heavier, creepier vibe.  A minute later, however, things get sped up just a bit, and before we know what hit us (2:30), we are in Riff City!  There is some serious drum pounding going on here as well (2:45), particularly at the end.

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Victims and Pawns again finds Ali Richardson (drums) very busy.  His cohorts are no slouches, either.  Leader Josh Middleton holds down one of the guitars and the vocal-chord-destroying onslaught, while Alex Bailey plays more guitars and Carl Parnell keeps a rock steady rhythm going on bass guitar.  This stuff is NOT for the faint of heart, and is often VERY heavy and VERY fast.  There are some brief guitar solo ‘moments’, if you will, mainly at 1:20 and 3:50.  It is remarkable that these blokes find the time for guitar solos, as there is often more going on here than meets the ears.

Next up is the title track, featuring an atmospheric intro and some pretty heavy duty thrash.  There is an absolutely shredding guitar solo at 3:20, followed by a downshift and a slightly introspective section.  Things kick back in (4:40) late in the tune, which is obviously a pattern of sorts for this Reading foursome, as a similar song structure occurs a few times later on…

To Build a Tomb is next, and a quick search of YouTube will find a Josh Middleton tutorial for all of you prospective thrash guitarists.  A very cool guitar intro is followed by slamming vocals, shifts in tempo, heavy riffs and a shredding guitar solo AGAIN at the three-minute mark.  A very heavy ending here as well.

Overthrown is a heavy duty, triple-time attack on the aural cavities.  There is the obligatory downshift (1:30) and a solo of sorts (2:20) that takes us to the fade-out.

Leech includes a guitar ‘spectacle’ intro, heralding a drum attack, then cue the growly vocals about 30 seconds in.  On a rhetorical angle, do Josh’s vocal chords hurt?  It sounds like he’s tearing them apart at times – but I digress.  Talk about shred!  At 2:40 there is a shift, followed by a solo with a bit of shred.  They sound positively despondent on this one – but perhaps that is the point!  There is some quiet time at around 3:30, then doom and gloom, as one might expect.  At four minutes Josh sounds like he could be going for a world record-length scream, as he totally shreds what’s left of his vocal chords.  Four-and-a-half minutes in, the fade begins again– this may be a moot point but I believe they overdo the fade-out a bit here and there.

Servitude includes a dual guitar intro, then heavy-as-hell drums, followed by a killer main riff with hard and heavy vocals to match.  At 2 minutes in there is a guitar bit, followed by a heavy double-bass drum shift, then some more shredding at 2:45.  They return to the main riff at the three-minute mark, then another lead guitar bit to the fade (sound familiar?).

Indoctrinated is another piece that features a sullen, mellow intro, then we get slammed by the guitars, drums and vocals all at once!  There is some brief shredding soaked in wah about one minute in, then some serious riffing, a shift in tempo (again), and a downshift, almost to slow motion, following shortly afterward.  There is another brief stab at melodic guitar soloing at 3:45, then back to the vocal and main guitar riff at 4:00.  A killing drum/vocal slam brings the proceedings to an end.

Harm has another cool guitar intro for us, then 25 seconds in we are slammed back again, so hang on to your hat!  There is some excellent guitar work here as well.  At 1:30 there is a brief solo, but anything detracting from the main riff is pretty much pointless here, as the main riff is just smashing!  At 2:45 there is a drum interlude, followed by a 3-minute mark shift into heavy as hell territory again.  The guitar solo at 3:20 is a bit longer than the others, and at 3:35 it shifts to sky guitar, where things almost turn a bit proggy for a bit.  There is more shifting and shredding at about 4 minutes in, kind of melodic this time, and a triumphant vocal return combined with a heavy finish.

Mercy features a riffy beginning, then we are slammed again by all of the players!  The vocals and the instruments seem to be vying for attention here, and there is some heavy double-time riffing (2 minutes in) going on, plus some more triumphant vocals.  There is also some shredding (3:30) and some more vocal prowess at about 4 minutes in – some positive screaming, if you will!  Slow, heavy riffing again takes us to the close.

Callous Souls includes heavy riffing on the guitar and drums again, plus a bit of galloping (ala Maiden) in the intro.  The main riff kicks in about 25 seconds in.  There is some no-holds-barred jamming here, and of course the shifting, riffing, blow-out guitar solos (3:00 and around 3:30).  At one point things get really quiet, and you can hear the boys jamming in the background – almost as if they are preparing for the next SLAM!  Sure enough, at 4 minutes in, they return to heavy form.  ‘Yes the Reaper comes’, bellows Josh, and I for one am a bit frightened…

The closer, Quiescent, is the only real odd man out here.  It is significantly longer than the other tracks (just over 9 minutes), and features some mellow acoustic fingerpicking at the outset.  There is also STRAIGHT singing, which I can only assume serves as a resting point for Mr. Middleton, who has no doubt completely destroyed his vocal chords at this point.  Is this the same band?  ‘Maybe the flames are all they have‘, muses our vocalist.  There is some creepy guitar strumming and some slow picking here as well — very incongruous when compared to the other tracks.  There is even some orchestration (violins, anybody?) at about the 3-minute mark.  At 4:10 there is a melodic guitar solo, then back to the riffing at about 4:30.  This is a bit proggy, and slightly reminiscent of Mastodon, to these ears.  At 4:50 there is more guitar soloing, then at 5 minutes in the shredding vocals/guitar return.  At six minutes in there is an instrumental interlude of sorts, and an overly lengthy guitar solo (6:20 – 8-something), then to the fade, where a creepy mellow ending ensues.  The guitar work towards the end is a bit repetitive, but not bad all in all.

To sum up, Sylosis are VERY good at what they do.  That being said, they are not for everyone.  Proceed with caution!

****/5

UFO – A Conspiracy of Stars

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SPV/Steamhammer

Review by Rick Ossian

Buy the CD HERE or the MP3 HERE

There are still those of us who believe that UFO have been robbed of their musical significance.  Commercially, obviously, and financially for the most part (I’d be one of them – Ed).  Ignored by the obvious, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and largely by the popular media (Rolling Stone) — if only these poor folks knew what they were missing.  TRUE rock and roll fans will know something of the Schenker-era (Rock Bottom, Lights Out, etc.), and most will have heard all or part of the infamous live collection, Strangers In the Night.  Those in the know will also have heard much, much more, from the sordid, spacey years (featuring pre-Schenker-era guitarist Mick Bolton) to the more recent years with guitar whiz Vinnie Moore (Don’t forget Paul “Tonka” Chapman and Laurence Archer! – Ed).

New member Rob de Luca (Sebastian Bach Band, Spread Eagle) on the bass seems to have added a good bit of bottom end.  Though we miss Pete Way (of course), we wish him well and, hopefully, continued health.  We may also miss Michael Schenker, obviously, because what would UFO’s history be without him?  Probably the man who could best serve an answer to this question would be their current guitarist extraordinaire, Vinnie Moore (Vicious Rumours, Alice Cooper, Jordan Rudess).  While listening to the constant fills (more like jabs/stabs/slashes) and wailing leads served up by Moore, one can’t help but wondering if Moore is a Schenker fan.  You need wonder no longer.  Moore is an obvious disciple of Schenker, and emulates him time after time.  That being said, he also has his own riffs, his own licks, his own Iommi-sized bag, if you will.  He has an amazing repertoire, and is able to conjure the most bluesy, brilliant swipes in every tune on this collection.

On first listen to this latest selection, it is fair to say that UFO operate as if they have never missed a beat.  On their last outing, 2012’s Seven Deadly, there was a certain urgency, as if they had something to prove to their legions of fans around the world.  This time out, there is a swagger — something they’ve no doubt had all along — which comes to the fore in, again, practically every song here.  The only problem here is yours truly is biased.  I have always loved UFO.  I’ve been a HUGE fan ever since I was a child in junior high school.  The ‘proof in the pudding’, as they say, is when an outsider – a nube, as it were – considers the music listenable, at the very least.  The mere fact that my wife did NOT request a reduction in volume whilst listening in the background tells me that I may be on to something.  Let’s take a look at the tunes, then, shall we?

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From the beautifully able rhythm pocket and killer riffing of Run Boy Run to the travelling country rock blues of Ballad of the Left Hand Gun to the Heavy Metal positively possessed blues of Devils in the Detail, there are so many pieces to be petitioned.  Opener The Killing Kind is a perfect example, featuring an excellent guitar solo to close out what could clearly have been a throwaway had Mr. Moore not had his say.  Vinnie appears to be the hero of the day here, doing the lion’s share of the writing as well as the guitar heroics.

Run Boy Run has the edge, the guitars, the ‘jingle jangle’.  Ballad has the balls, the swagger of the UFO halcyon days of yore.  Sugar Cane, a monster six-minute-plus Blues, has the instrumental interplay.  Devils in the Detail has Phil Mogg at his positively powerful vocal best.  Precious Cargo features some really cool keys in the background, provided by none other than stalwart UFO vet Paul Raymond (Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack) – who also plays a wicked rhythm guitar, by the way.  The Real Deal features a solid drum intro by none other than the other remaining vet, Mr. Andy Parker.  Messiah of Love finds Parker pretty busy, as does Rollin’ Rollin’, particularly during the instrumental breakdown.

An additional track at the end would feature normally into a UFO recording, but just when you think it would be a throwaway, check it out - King of the Hill has its own rolling boogie, a mix of heavy metal and blues, as its contenders show.  There are growling guitars and one hell of a beat.  There is even a bit of shred towards the end.  Anyone who might think UFO are beaten, whooped, down and out – think again.  They are as alive and breathing and as healthy as any band I’ve heard in years!

Top marks!

*****/5