Cloud Maze – Maybe, You Decide

cloudmazecover

Independent

Review by Rick Ossian

I don’t really know that I’m qualified to review this bunch, but I’m going to go for it anyway.  Cloud Maze are an electro-pop outfit from Moscow that were formed in 2013.  They DO veer off into the heaviness of Metal and Hard Rock occasionally, but that is obviously not their forte.  They are in the business of making people dance, so you would most likely hear them in a discothecque as opposed to a regular rock club.  Personnel are Sergy on vocals and lead guitar, Anfir on bass and Alex on drums.  Though this type of noise is NOT normally my cuppa, I was encouraged by a friend’s recommendation and thusly, here we are!

I must confess I was excited when I heard Chris Slade (AC/DC, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) deem these fellows ‘sensual’.  While not normally in one’s everyday vocabulary, we should all admit that we would LIKE it to be.  That being said, let us get on with the sexiness.  On first listen (or two), I hold true to what I espoused from the beginning.  This is NOT Metal.  It is more Rock than Pop, and there are a few Heavier moments, but it is a long ways from what we’re accustomed to hearing.  Most of these tracks would feel like they belonged on an FM Top 40 playlist (from the future), but it is doubtful that we would hear them on any of the stations we frequent.  But enough of my babbling…

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The intro, though brief, is telling.  We hear a clip of a phone conversation between, I assume, Sergy or a rep for the band, inquiring as to whether or not they could be ‘one of your artists‘.  The response: ‘Sorry, that’s too gay for us‘!  Unfortunately for Cloud Maze, that may have been my initial response as well.  However, this is not a song – it’s just a very small spoken-word piece, if you will.  Next up is the actual music.

Dance has a cool beat, but it is way too electro dance-pop for these ears.  There are also some neat angst-ridden vocals here.  Angry vocals are good, right?  I just wish that the music was angrier.  This would be wonderful stuff for the dance floor.  Anybody who normally feels a groove would have a hard time sitting still to this number.  There are some decent dance breaks, but again – NOT Metal.  Be forewarned.  There is some Heavy Rock riffing going on here, and some decent guitar work, but let’s not get too excited.

Moves is more of a synth/guitar jam.  It is more of the same, the intro features a digital run-up to some good playing, rock guitar, bass and drums just simple whack style stuff.  The interplay between the drums and the bass is particularly busy on this tune.  There are angry vocals again, of course – perhaps because they can’t decide on a genre?   Vocally I was reminded of Mike Patton and BigElf‘s Damon Fox.  This is techno-laced Rock at it’s best, with some droning and a vocal shift around the 3 minute mark.  There is also some brief lead guitar noodling (2:00), and a couple of shifts.  Not bad.

Steroid features more tribal drumming, almost Bluesy to begin with, and FX sounding like sirens wailing.  The vocals again are mentally anguished, but that seems to be the norm on these recordings. Drums and bass are exceedingly busy again as well.

Persuade features more of the same, the angry vocals, and of course is Heavy Rock at best, but not necessarily Metal.  They DO veer dangerously close at some moments… This is more like Roxy Music or David Bowie on steroids and methamphetamines simultaneously.  ‘If you please/Get on your knees‘, the lyrics intone, and the vocalist is ‘turning‘ quite a bit.  This reminded me also of a heavier Alan Parsons Project, oddly enough, and there is a synth-like fade out at the end.

T.T.L. features one Cristian Galli of Carousel 47, and is a cool, punchy punk number with powerful vocals.  Trick is more of the same discothecque-style rumblings from above.  Imagine electro beats like in house or trance but mixed with cool basslines like some Heavy Rock is.

Winter sounds like it’s title, again with slightly anguished vocals.  It is pretty mellow music for the most part, as is evidenced by Sergy encouraging us to ‘turn the lights down‘.  It is spacey Computer Rock in some ways, also, and there are violins (??) (3:25) and a (sort of) guitar solo (3:40).  A computer fade-out graces the ending.  More PC rock mixed with disco, then.  Some repetition here as well.

Outro features a synth-like ambience (Eno, anyone?) that one might find in their local mall, or in the elevator (lift) at their local airport.  There is also some Edge(U2)-like guitar work.  It is muzak but better, and of course on a bigger scale.

Trick appears again at the close, this time with Smarts.  It is disco-NOT Metal (surprise!), and makes one wonder why it appears on the same disc twice.  Perhaps it was an oversight, or the obligatory ‘bonus’ track.  Once was enough.  It is a catchy number, I will give them that.  Rap does not belong – that must be where Smarts comes in.  He should have stayed home.

**/5

Prong – Songs From the Black Hole

prongsongscover

SPV/Steamhammer

Review by Rick Ossian

Buy the CD HERE and the MP3s HERE

Normally when I am confronted with a covers album I am sceptical at best.  I’ve been burned before with these clowns trying to emulate their heroes, and quite frankly have just about had my fill.  However, when I noticed it was my thrash metal heroes Prong, I decided to make an exception.  Prong are three stalwart metal champs who hail from Los Angeles by way of New York.  They are Tommy Victor (vocals, guitar), Jason Christopher (bass, backing vocals) and Art Cruz (drums).  Most of you may know Prong from their Rude Awakening days, as the track Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck was a regular FM staple when I was living in our state’s capital.  This may be among their best work since that lofty peak.

For the most part, the tracks contained herein are covers of punk rock denizens that most of you may have heard whispered in the corners of clubs and wild parties.  Husker Du? you would hear, or Fugazi, to which the inevitable reply, ‘who are those guys talking about?‘  Some of the bands covered on this record were never chart darlings or even critics’ champions.  Most of them were never really household words, save for, perhaps, Neil Young.  The mere fact that there is a Neil Young track on board here is almost completely incongruous, especially given the other selections!

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Doomsday, originally recorded by Discharge, is short but sweet, with heavy riffage and powerful drums.  There is even a lead guitar shredding solo at about 1:20.  This tune is a serious jam that is over way too quickly.

Vision Thing, a Sisters of Mercy cover, as our fearless leader has observed, is “really rather excellent“.  Some killer riffing busts down the dear, and main riff kicks some serious ass.  With lyrics like “twenty-five whores in the room next door” and “another motherfucker in a motorcade”, how can you lose?

Goofy’s Concern was originally a Butthole Surfers number, and is about as faithful as you can be when it comes to the Surfers.  I witness the spectacle that is the Butthole Surfers live in Omaha one night, and I can tell you that I never quite looked at music the same way after that event.  For Prong‘s version I can tell you I was similarly fixated, especially when the droning intro gave way to trip-hammer drumming and heavy guitar riffing and vocal screaming and — well, you get the picture.  Some VERY intense stuff.  The main riff is excellent, as is the norm with Prong.  This one is another of several on board here that is agonizingly short but sugary sweet.

Kids of the Black Hole, an Adolescents tune, is done up again with drones, heavy riffing on the guitars and super fucking bad-ass drumming.  This is almost metal psych, in a way – it doesn’t really sound like punk – but then it is a heavy metal band doing classic punk rock covers.  The epitome of musical irony, you might say?  Just Prong doing their thing, I say.  The fierceness and the fury are there, and even a spoken word ‘house of’/’nights of’ rap, plus an instrumental breakdown at about the four-minute mark.  Everything a growing metalhead could want or need…

The Bars is a Black Flag number, and the boys do it up right, with a wonderful opening bass line, busy-as-hell drums and guitar joining in almost instantaneously.  There are lots of surprises here, including a wicked fast guitar solo shredding away (2:55) and a guitar fade-out.  Not typical of punk rock, but then what is?

Seeing Red was originally a Killing Joke anthem, and the Prong treatment features a cool guitar intro heralding the punk onslaught that soon follows.  The bass and drums join in at about 10 seconds in, shortly followed by vocal intensity at 20.  I was reminded of Hawkwind, of all bands, particularly when they do their space punk routine on the live Space Ritual stuff.  The end features droning feedback and a guitar fade out again.

Husker Du’s Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely is up next, and Prong‘s turn on this punk classic features heavy feedback, squalling guitars and pounding drums and bass.  Some melody is actually happening here vocally, which is another thing that one may not find normal for punk OR heavy metal, for that matter.  Seems Prong are full of surprises.  I was reminded of Black Star Riders, strangely enough, on this number.  At 1:30 there is some seriously shredding lead work again, and the drums are hellishly busy, almost nihilistic, if you will.

Fugazi‘s Give Me The Cure is the next to get the Prong treatment, and they grace its intro with a cool psych guitar figure, followed by droning and drums AGAIN.  I know, broken record, Rick – right? Of course!  Just listen and you will know that they have put the Prong stamp on things, so to speak.

Banned In D.C., originally done up by Bad Brains, features more of the same – heavy drus, screaming vocals, burning guitar.  This is super heavy punk mixed with a modicum of thrash.  At about a minute in they shift into hard rock, almost heavy metal territory.  At 1:45 there is what seems by now to be the obligatory lead guitar solo.  Not a bad turn at all.

Finally we come to the closer, a beautifully done cover of Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer.  This one was a a faithful enough cover to bring chills to my spine.  It is what we will refer to as “the single”.  Whether or not it garners any FM airplay is for anyone to say.  My guess is that it may not, but that would only be the loss of the radio station’s.  If not for the repetition and the selections, I would probably give this one top marks.  It is tempting.

****/5

Mother’s Finest – Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts

mothersfinestcover

SPV/Steamhammer

Review by Rick Ossian

Buy the CD HERE and the MP3s HERE

Just when you thought they were no more, here comes Mother’s Finest screaming out of Atlanta with their first (mostly) studio album since Meta-Funk N Physical (2003).  There have been some sporadic live releases in the meantime, which is clearly their forte, something one realizes when confronted with the sprawling, 9-minute-plus closer.  Illusion/Satisfaction/Born To Be Wild is a live medley recorded in front of a very appreciative Boston crowd, even when put face-to-face with a BIG drum solo, courtesy of Dion Derek.  Derek is, incidentally, the only major personnel change in the last 10 years, having replaced Kerry “Lovingood” Denton.  The other members include Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy and Glenn “Doc” Murdock on vocals, Jerry “Wyzard” Seay on bass, Gary “Moses Mo” Moore and John “Red Devil” Hayes on guitars and the aforementioned Dion on the drums.  Quite a line-up, and a formidable force to be reckoned with, both in and out of the studio.

The studio tracks, as one might imagine, are a pure funk-fest.  Angels starts things off with a bang, featuring Joyce on the lead vocal.  She has the classic female funky voice, powerful but soulful all at once.

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Shut Up is funky metal, VERY funky, in fact, and almost more in the hard rock vein than the heavy metal one.  The lyrics are particularly punchy as well: ‘Where do you get off?/Trying to tell me what to do/What makes you think/I need to hear your point of view?’  At 2:45 there is a lead guitar solo, which normally is pretty common fare in the stuff I write about, but amidst the funkified frazzle brought to fruition here it is just the icing on the cake!

She Ready features a drum and guitar intro, and is hard rock with a Riff City main refrain.  There is some serious guitar and bass – mostly 70’s hard rock style – going on here, and this tune in particular sports a wickedly cool groove.  Again, the lyrics are in your face; ‘It’s a woman’s world/Can you deal with it?’  Some really cool bass licks here as well.

Cling to the Cross is probably my fave on this collection, and is another blast of bluesy funk.  The main riff is a sweet one, and I challenge anyone out there with a sense of rhythm to listen to this one without a bit of head-bobbing!  Everything here is pretty cool, from the excellent rhythm work to the refrain – everything kicks ass.  There is a nice bass lick (again) – seems funk usually features some pretty spicy bass guitar work.  This is mainly a vehicle for Doc (on vocals), and also features a lead guitar solo (2:45 to the fade-out).

Another Day includes a sweet guitar/vocal intro and another wicked bass groove.  In point of fact, the foundation here is completely solid, as both drums and bass lock together in near perfect rhythm and harmony.  The female vocals (Joyce) make a return, and I am reminded of what I refer to as Super Funk (Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown’s 70’s line-up, War, etc.).  DIG the bass licks here also!  At 2:20 there is a brief rap, mixed with heavy guitar and funky bass.  What more could you want?

Tears of Stone is a bit of a different tune here, but only departs in style – for sheer force and funkiness, it is still hard to beat.  It includes an acoustic guitar intro and a sultry, siren-style firehouse vocal delivery from Joyce.  This is a torchlight rock power ballad, if you will, and is mainly piano-fueled, which sets it apart from the rest of the tunes just a bit.  At 2:20 they veer off into rap/rock territory for just a bit, but don’t despair- they don’t hang their hat on it!

All Of My Life features a cool, atmospheric intro and a heavy funk main riff.  There is some sweet bass licks here again, and a breakdown/shift (1:30), as well as a lead guitar solo (2:50).  This number is actually FM-radio friendly, especially if you listen to a funky 70’s channel!

I Don’t Mind includes yet another bad ass, cool bass lick, and the opening is full of funky bass and drums AND vocals.  The vocal delivery reminds me of a young, soulful Bill Withers (Lean On Me, Just the Two of Us, Lovely Day, etc.), and we hear some very cool guitar chops on this tune as well.  There is another lead solo (1:30), and a brief phone convo (1:50).  Another solo at the three-minute mark takes us to the fade, with some tasty bass guitar work in the interim.

Take Control is another funktastic tune, full of keys, bass, and heavier rock moves, if you will.  The main riff is an ass-kicking one, and the coolest lyrical line I’ve heard today is on board; ‘Movin and groovin on a dog day afternoon’!  How’s that for meaty lyrics?

My Badd, the last of the studio tracks, has one of those cool, creepy guitar intros that I just adore, plus a nice neat main riff and some cool vocal work by Joyce.  This is a hard-charging rocker, almost heavy metal in scope.  It is funky and lyrically adept, as well; ‘Baptized in the waters of my own tears’ is a particularly eloquent phrase that I noticed.

So, since it’s been awhile for me hearing anything along these lines, I will give another well-deserved top mark to these funky folks from Atlanta.  With any luck, they will follow it up with yet another live recording!

*****/5

Seven Year Storm – Aion I EP

sevenyearstorm

Hammerdown Records

Review by Rick Ossian

Buy the MP3s HERE

Seven Year Storm is quite possibly one of the most interesting instrumental prog projects I’ve heard in some time.  They hail from Vancouver, British Columbia, and are sporting one of the best percussionists in the business, one Sean Lang.  Sean is a professional freelance drummer and instructor, and didn’t even plan on recording this stuff until he got a load of advice from some musician friends that he should.  It is truly lucky for us, especially if you are a prog aficionado like yours truly.  Seven Year Storm also features Dean Lamb (Archspire) on lead guitar and Brent Mackenzie on bass, and they are definitely a wonder to behold.  There are five compositions here, and though there is some repetition, it is glorious for the most part!

sevenyearstormseanlang

Morphogenesis starts thing off with a pounding drum/keyboard intro.  It is a wonderful instrumental with some wicked guitar work going on.  Talk about your busy drummers!  I know it is a (most likely annoying) catch phrase of mine, but I’m not quite sure how else to describe it.  There is intricacy, there is persistent percussion, a veritable cornucopia of pulsing, pounding beats!  That should do it for descriptive power.  This is fairly heavy prog, by the way; some moments of light do exist, but then what the dark be without a bit of light?

Dyatlov features a violin at the outset, along with some drums and a slamming guitar entry about 20 seconds in.  Again, there is some really cool drumming going on here, and even a guitar/drum duel of sorts.  At 3:30 there is the obligatory lead guitar solo, but for the most part the focus is on the drums.

Virtue has a weird synth intro and some heavy duty drums.  This is very cool soundscape stuff.  The way the guitars weave and conspire with the drums is positively ear-bending!  Some very cool riffs abound, and at 3:20 the violin action gives way to some slamming drums.  Surprise!

Nazca Lines starts life off with a handclap intro and some pretty cool guitar and keyboard work.  The drum entry is pure prog, and one can’t help but wonder if they were to see a Seven Year Storm show, just how big/long of a drum solo would there be?  We can only hope it would be a monster!  This is majestic, powerful, fist-pumping prog at its finest, filled with guitars and keys widdling away, with an absolutely pounding drum beat behind it all.  The drums are driving this beast, but the bass and guitar work are also very good.  Technical and precise, with shifts (2:00) and guitar shred (2:30), not to mention keys, especially piano (3:25).

Blue Car Syndrome closes out the show, and is the longest piece on board here by a minute and a half or so (6:47).  This is a heavy jam, with more violins and keys at the intro.  Stately and grandiose, with pounding drums (again) and heavy instrumental action.  At its best it is an atmospheric soundscape, at its worst it is pure widde, so if you came to hear some vocals, forget it!  Fifty seconds in we get slammed with power prog guitar, and we get a slight shift in the proceedings at 1:15.  This is a totally inspiring instrumental jam, with a shift (3:00) to air keys and a lead guitar-led jam (3:20).  At 4 minutes in, thing build faster, then we get a briefly slower blues.  Some seriously busy drumming going on again, and what a total jam that takes us to the fade at the end.

As mentioned above, this may not be for you.  However, if your thing is instrumental prog with a heavy accent on the drums, then rejoice!  This may be one of the best pieces you will hear all year.  I, for one, am looking forward to #2!

*****/5

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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