Thursday, 29 November 2012
For many bands, the departure of a pivotal member can result in a lack of momentum and deterioration in collective motivation. For West London’s Hang the Bastard the loss of vocalist Chris Barling, to investigate other interests, did nothing to diminish their impetus. Replacing Barling with former Deal With It vocalist Mike Carver, Hang the Bastard have forged ahead with plans to release a new album in 2013. This collection, “2009-2012” represents their complete catalogue from the Chris Barling era, including their first full length album release “Hellfire Reign”, the latest EP, plus a variety of demos and tracks from hard to come by, and therefore, costly, split releases. As an introduction to the furious being that is Hang the Bastard there could be no finer archive.
The first ten tracks are from 2009’s “Hellfire Reign”, and are characterised by hammering percussion and guitar, providing the foundation for Barling’s vocal attack. Material from the “Raw Scorcery” EP loses that distinctive thrash, and comes across with more weight and muscle. “Pillage Your Village” loses none of the aggression of the earlier releases, but gains something in a controlled majesty of performance. The tempo here may not be as swift, but the emotions are equally as visceral. The 2012 self titled release shows a band that have absorbed all the influences and experience of their catalogue up to this point and used them to put together a body of work that displays a sense of maturity. The production now is much fresher, allowing each instrument and subtlety the opportunity to shine through. The vocals appear to have increased in intensity, and the overall effect is one of greater authority and presence. “Interplanetary Portals” with its combination of spoken word passage, psychedelic arpeggios, fanatical screams and hectic pace, highlight a band who are comfortable in their surroundings and are happy to produce deep and grimy....
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Monday, 26 November 2012
The third release from Rainbow, “On Stage” could have been argued to have been a courageous move so early in their recorded output. It could also be seen as a confident move, or an endeavour to buy further time before the release of “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Whatever the reasons, they are purely academic, and this reissue allows newcomers and enthusiasts the opportunity to revisit the splendour that was Rainbow at this moment in time. Whatever one’s opinion on taped introductions, the dialogue from “The Wizard of Oz” is pure theatrics and is the perfect preamble.
Like many Rainbow performances of the time this set begins with the invigorating ‘Kill the King’. Another brave move as this song was yet to be released on the follow up “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” album. This version will not disappoint with it breathtaking speed and vitality. Dio’s voice is on fine form and appears self-assured and authoritative. The solos burst out of the tune in rapid succession and the stall is set out. ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ has an urgency that was never evident on the album version, and features an extended ‘Blues Starstruck’ which showcases some intricate guitar and organ based blues and what sounds remarkably like a duck adding a few choice phrases.
Another extended piece augmented by some searing guitar soloing is the ballad ‘Catch the Rainbow’ which, at over fifteen minutes, may for some be outstaying its welcome, but for the Rainbow devotee is a treat for the ears. Testing the patience of the casual listener again ‘Mistreated’, the Deep Purple song, is characterised by lengthy guitar workouts, which symbolize the Rainbow live experience, and should possibly be seen from that perspective. The vocals are, however, overflowing with passion and taken together, the experience of hearing it here is not objectionable.
‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’ next, from “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow”, gives an indication as to where Blackmore’s career would in due course be heading. Opening with a dramatic guitar adaptation of ‘Greensleeves’, the piece then moves into overdrive with a plethora of medieval metaphors. Closing the original album release is a version of The Yardbirds‘ ‘Still I’m Sad’ from the first album, which provides a vehicle for each band member to solo to extremity. For the dedicated Rainbow collector, the second disc of this deluxe reissue will be of particular interest. Featuring tracks recorded at a show in Osaka in December 1976, the running order may be truer to the original show, but the music featured is of comparable content to the first disc.‘Mistreated’, ‘Catch the Rainbow’ and ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ reappear in extended form, with the only addition being ‘Do Close Your Eyes’, another example of the showmanship and theatricality that characterised a Rainbow show of the time....
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Monday, 19 November 2012
There could be a whole discussion on the credibility of repeated album reissues with bonus tracks of rough mixes, studio out-takes, interviews and live tracks from the period. For the aficionado of the band in question, reissues such as this are an important historical document giving the consumer insight and context, and, as is often the case, extensive and trustworthy sleeve notes. These factors are very often a major selling point. There is obviously a market for extensive reissue packages (witness the recent gargantuan King Crimson “Larks Tongues in Aspic” box), and readers of this piece could be argued to be the demographic.
“Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”, featuring Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore and Cozy Powell, will be a familiar body of work to the devoted and this particular release will not disappoint. The opening ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ will be familiar to most anyone who has even a passing interest in music, it is still a joy to hear, and sing along to and is the epitome of the classic album opening track. ‘Lady of the Lake’ features dark and foreboding guitar riffs and restrained soloing from Blackmore, and a intelligent change of mood from moody verse to stirring chorus. Another tune familiar to those involved is ‘L.A. Connection’, riding on unhurried, solemn and imposing percussion cut through with towering guitar lines. For many, the axis of the album is ‘Gates of Babylon’ with its opening Eastern flavoured synthesiser salute, dynamic verse and chorus structure, angular guitar solos and baleful cries of “The devil will take you away!”. Regular concert opener “Kill the King” is as exhilarating now as when it was first heard on the original release, with Blackmore’s soloing doubtless to induce an army of bedroom air guitarists to pick up their axe. The ending few moments of ‘Kill the King’ may inspire a discussion on the most momentous ending to a metal tune in history.
The overall pace of the album meanders gently to an end on the last three tracks, produced in the halcyon days when track sequencing was still a major consideration, it could be argued. ‘The Shed’ still retains the general momentum with hammering percussion and subtly repeating guitar motifs, whilst ‘Sensitive to Light’ loses an element of the heaviness of previous tracks, but gains integrity through being amusing to play and croon along to, “Sensitive to light…ah!”. The sensitive ‘Rainbow Eyes’, augmented with flute and strings and stirring arpeggios, may bring a tear to the eye of even the most unsentimental old music enthusiast....
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Saturday, 17 November 2012
Cork and Tipperary, in Ireland, may not be the first locations to spring to mind when thinking of unrefined, unyielding blues, although the great Rory Gallagher was brought up in Cork. Crow Black Chicken on their debut album “Electric Soup” play blues that is not diluted with jazz, folk or any other genre skirting the edges. Crow Black Chicken plays the blues, and they play it remarkably well. From the opening few bars of ‘White Lightening’ the stall is set out to perfection. With production just on the lucid side of gritty, the listener can appreciate the road down which they are to travel. Memorable chorus, insanely haunting verses and soaring lead guitar lines are evident in profusion. It would be a challenge for the listener to not take up their air guitar by the end of ‘White Lightening’.
Slightly more downbeat, but no less soaked in the blues tradition, ‘Skin Deep’ is seductive and charming, and showcases the vocal style of Christy O’Hanlon to perfection. O’Hanlon’s voice is at once assertive yet soulful, drenched in emotion yet taking no prisoners. The tracks that follow, ‘Pourin’ Down’ and ‘Epitaph’ follow a similar path, as the bass and drums foundation of Steven McGrath and Gev Barrett respectively, continues to provide a concrete yet organic foundation.
‘Charlie’s Women’ would not sound out of place on an album produced forty years ago, and evokes an air of melancholy for times long gone. The playing on ‘John Lee Wee’ is fluid and loose and creates an atmosphere of relaxation and pleasure. Like ‘Charlie’s Women’ the title track ‘Electric Soup’ straddles the ages in terms of musical fashion, and features feral and uncultivated guitar lines that have been pushing back the boundaries of respectability for decades. Possibly the most vociferous track on the album and the track that would most likely symbolize the album as a whole is ‘Murmuration’, with its searing slide guitar and undomesticated vocals. As the track builds up the momentum, the musicianship becomes more frenzied and the vocals become more incomprehensible. ‘Lie Awake’ has a lilting vocal style that is reminiscent of John Martyn in its delivery....
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Friday, 16 November 2012
Based in Lisbon, Portugal, Katabatic released their first EP “Vago” in 2006. After touring the country and providing support for a number of Portuguese bands, their first full length release “Heavy Water” is symptomatic of a band that are secure now with their identity and confident to release an album of ambitious instrumentals. The opening ‘Wonder Room’ enters the consciousness with a clang of guitar, bass and drum. Held together on a solid bass line foundation, the tune swerves in a number of directions, with wordless vocals sweeping ghost like across the mix, and strident guitar progressions providing a variety of textures and colours. There are spaces left to allow reflection and there are changes in mood to keep the listener attentive. The tune does, however, end abruptly before ‘Light Hexagons’ takes over. Similar in atmosphere and riding along on similar hypnotic instrumental motifs, the listener is taken on a wordless journey, sometimes delicate and caressing, sometimes untamed and imposing.
Correspondingly ‘Morsa’ is an expedition through the emotions, carried along on the momentum of crashing cymbals and fragile guitar lines. One of the longer pieces on the album, ‘Anova’ at eleven minutes, has the space to expand and explore further territory. Again, wordless vocals lend the tune not only an ethereal quality, but a sense of humanity. Relying less on expansive riffs and driving chord progressions, ‘Anova’ feels more contemplative and brooding. Music labelled “post rock” can often be criticised for following the standard quiet-loud-louder-quieter-quiet formula, which, to some extent is true here. What Katabatic do achieve, with some success, is that the pattern never appears contrived, and each piece seems to swell and contract organically. The title track ‘Heavy Water’ appears an innocent pause in proceedings before ‘Girlaxia’, featuring a variety of grubby guitar riffs, and soaring guitar lines, and, like a katabatic wind, brushes any melancholia to one side and returns to leading the listener hand in hand on their voyage through Katabatic’s psyche. Indeed, both ‘Girlaxia’ and the final track ‘Abandonica’, feature some of the most uplifting music on this release, and leave one to consider how the familiar formula for “post rock” can be mutated to break boundaries and keep the name attractive....
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Sunday, 11 November 2012
London based vocalist Tara Rez and keyboard/bassist Andy Theirum put The Duel together as a going concern in 2001, released a series of albums, “Let’s Finish What We Started”, “All Aboard the Crazy Train”, “Childish Behaviour” and enjoyed a variety of influential live support slots from punk stalwarts the Dead Kennedys, UK Subs, Slits, The Vibrators, Sham 69 and Vice Squad. This distinguished career has gained the band loyal supporters and earned them the respect of fans and peers alike. “Soundtrack to the End of the World (The Zak Splash Story)”, their latest release, is brimming with infectious melodies, that may not please the noise aficionado or the listener who seeks aggression and belligerence, but is indicative of a band who are comfortable with their song structures and playing style and are not afraid to share it with their community.
The opening ‘Intro’ is a sizzling instrumental driven along on excitable percussion and hysterical guitar riffs. The melody lines soon begin to build up, layer upon layer, to reveal an insanely catchy slice of punk infused pop. ‘Invincible’ features thrashing treble heavy guitar, precision bass, unearthly keyboard lines and zealous vocals which weave together to produce a mix that is raw in its emotion yet displays a great deal of lucidity in the production. When the listener feels that they most likely have now become familiar with the way the album may be going in terms of resonance, ‘Less Everyday’ plays with the formula, and pushes the guitar back down in the mix to create a twisted concoction that is not so much contained by the formula of “punk” and is more experimental in nature. ‘You Can Do It’ builds upon the elements encountered so far, and introduces a danger which may not have been previously perceptible. There certainly is a DIY ethic to the mood created by ‘Fake Like You’, whose muffled guitar riffs are cut through with shards of searing loveliness. There is a confident bluster to these tunes which is hard to create artificially, but which appears to come naturally to The Duel. This becomes more and more apparent on tracks such as ‘Love Me Do’ as Tara Rez begins to take on an edge to her voice which is at once confrontational, yet adolescent and brittle....
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In 1994 two men formed Karma to Burn in West Virginia with the purpose of producing raw energy from the traditional power trio format. Richard Mullins and William Mecum did just that, and put together an album of unrefined instrumentals, with numbered titles, as their hearts told them was the right thing to do. Roadrunner Records expressed an interest in releasing the album with the proviso that vocals were added and the songs themselves were given traditional titles. Whether through naivety, or any other number of possible reasons, the boys accepted the arrangement and released the album with vocal contributions from Jay Jarosz. In 2012 we now have the opportunity to hear that album as it was originally conceived, with ambiguously numbered titles and, with the exception of one track, without a voice, on “Karma to Burn – Slight Reprise”.
On first hearing the album, one may argue that Roadrunner may have had a point in requesting vocals for the tracks, as some of the instrumentals are difficult to differentiate. With the obvious exception of John Garcia’s voice on ‘Two Times’, which adds another layer to the experience, and another of Roadrunner’s original rejections, each of the numbered tracks, despite being infused with passion and vigour, possibly lack character and individuality. If, on the other hand, you are considering Karma to Burn with the sole intention of hearing some straight forward honest guitar driven rock, then this could very well right up the listeners whisky sodden street. There is no shortage amongst the numbered tracks, of alluring guitar riffs and rolling percussion, and for the timid listener, there is also space within the music to take stock and move on. There are several levels of intensity throughout, with subtlety and fragility sitting alongside muscle and extremity, and the overall experience is one of a group of musicians who are comfortable in letting these textures flow out of them. The production is an appropriate level of clarity and honesty, with opening screeches of feedback reminding the listener of the integrity within....
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