Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights Album Review

Here’s another review I wrote for Ever Metal, which I can share with you now.  This album was also one of my Top 10 of 2019…

Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights

Rise Up and Fall Records

Release date: ?

Running time: 30 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

Curse you, Speedealer!  I had pretty much decided on my Top 10 albums for 2019, and then these guys turn up with this rocket fuelled bruiser of a record.  The year had started off slowly, to be honest – but great new music has been arriving at a rapid pace recently.  And just when I was about to bed down for a long winter nap, Speedealer turned everything up to 11 and ruined my plans.

The album is called “Blue Days, Black Nights”.  It’s fast, crazy, adrenaline pumped rock’n’roll and it never stops pounding home the righteous sounds till it’s brief-but-beautiful 30 minute lifespan is over.  At which point, I tend to just start again from the beginning.

The first song is called “Never New” and it smashes in, steals your whiskey and is gone in under a minute and a half.  That’s reckless by anyone’s standards.

It ain’t all super-fast punk’n’roll though, there’s many a change of pace to be heard.  “Rheumatism” and “War Nicht Genug” both feature riffs that are heavy and brutal.  Elsewhere, in “Sold Out”, the band unleash a tortured performance of a song that would be a blues rocker, but is far too dense and violent for that phrase to fit snugly.

Never mess with Texas, goes the old saying.  And these Texan boys do not fanny about AT ALL on this fine collection of tunes.  Instead, “Blue Days Black Nights” will drag you along like an out of control stag party: full of booze-filled fun, ridiculous antics and dangerous detours.  I’m deducting half a point for the terrible cover art, otherwise this one’s a killer.

FUN FACT: Speedealer used to be called REO Speedealer – which let’s face it, is a much better name – until REO Speedwagon got wind of it and issued a cease and desist.  Anyone with a sense of humour would surely take that name as an homage, right?   You’d think the miserable old bastards would’ve enjoyed being put back on the map.

What’s that?  Ever Metal’s lawyers are on the phone?  Court order from who?  Oops…

Speedealer can be found online at: speedealerband.com

You can also find Speedealer on Facebook here, Twitter here and Instagram here.

And don’t forget to check out Ever Metal here.

Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon Album Review

Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon

RidingEasy Records

Release date: 27/09/2019

Running time: 49 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

You’ve got to hand it to the Swedes.  They’re pretty damn good at whatever they turn their hands to.  Cheese with holes in, chocolate, clocks… No wait, that’s the Swiss.  The Swedes are the ones who are awesome at flatpack furniture and – most importantly for us – music.

Firebreather are a trio of doom-mongers from Gothenburg in Sweden.  Comprising Mattias Noojd on vocals and guitar, Kyle Pitcher on bass and drummer Axel Wittbeck, these riff-lords are adept at creating massive, epic songs that are both brutal and beautiful.

The music pounds and pummels, but as in opening track “Dancing Flames”, the churning riff becomes hypnotically entrancing.  “Our Souls They Burn” is unleashed with a super-heavy grind that’s underpinned by a powerful groove.

It’s hard to pick a stand-out or favourite track, though the relentless structure of the songs creates a vast tapestry of music that blends together.  This is savage and also seductive, like the wilderness of their native Scandinavia.  Hence, we get the thunderous beat of title track “Firebreather” and the contrast of the slow rhythmic build and almost melancholic vibe of “The Siren”.

Repeated listens are definitely recommended: familiarity with “Under a Blood Moon” coaxes the songs to open up and reveal more treasures each time.  The listeners’ mind can imagine patterns and shapes cascading, like watching flames burn and dance.  It’s a solid album from Firebreather that only promises to grow and endure.

All this talk about fire-breathing brings back memories of my old mate Ronnie James Dio’s fascination with the Dungeons and Dragons board game.  Back in the early 80’s, when he was fronting Black Sabbath, Ronnie was obsessed with it.  He’d constantly badger the band to play it with him, which they did – begrudgingly.

Tony and Geezer amiably played along to humour their titan-voiced tiny singer.  I recall one time though, when Bill Ward had really had enough of elves and dragons – he threw a huge pitcher of ale over the game.  Ronnie was livid, Tony and Geezer were trying to stifle laughter.  Especially when Bill kicked the table, banged his big toe and fell about screaming in agony, ripping a hole in his wife’s tights.  Bill was always wearing his wife’s tights.  I think they kept him warm.

You can find Firebreather on Facebook and Twitter: @FIREBREATHERGBG.

Check them out on Bandcamp here.

This review originally appeared on the Ever Metal site, which you can visit here.

Wizard Rifle – Album Review

Time for another review I wrote for Ever Metal, which you can now read at the Virtual Hot Tub:

Wizard Rifle – Wizard Rifle

Svart Records

Release date: 30/08/2019

Running Time: 45 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

Right, about time I got back to business with these album reviews for my pals at Ever Metal.  But how do you define the indefinable?  ‘Cos that’s basically the issue I’ve had with this review (not writer’s block, honest).  Comparing Wizard Rifle to other bands in myopic, lazy journo style just doesn’t seem to cut it with these guys.

There’s too much going on with Wizard Rifle’s self-titled album to accurately pin down a clumsy similarity to someone else.  It’s a mixture of loud, obnoxious metal, post rock, screamy hardcore punk and grungy sludge; with waves of psychedelic beauty tying it together.

Despite the unholy wall of noise that the band produce there are just two of them – guitarist/vocalist Max Dameron and drummer/vocalist Sam Ford.  That’s a hell of a racket for just two people.  They’re not short of ideas either, as the genre blending demonstrates.  Maybe that’s an advantage of just two minds, rather than several – Dameron and Ford display some ingenious telepathy weaving their creations together.

Loads of energy too – “Rocket to Hell” (great title) is a glorious, shouty opener, and “Caveman Waltz” is a possible contender for Riff of the Year.  It chugs like a drug fuelled locomotive trying to jump the Grand Canyon.

There are only five songs on this record, but as none of them are under seven minutes in length, there’s plenty of value for money.  The guys have learnt to expand a song and explore its possibilities in a way that keeps the ear engaged.  Like on the 12 minute epic “Funeral of the Sun”, which stretches out hypnotically but loses none of its heavy intensity.

Wizard Rifle are from the Portland, Oregon area – which as it’s the Pacific North West, must surely be Big Foot country.  So, I’m gonna coin a lazy journo phrase and label this sound Big Foot Rock.  Remember, you read it here first.  And yes, when this band are huge and Big Foot Rock takes over Western Civilization, I’ll be claiming the royalties for inventing that label.

Big Foot Rock T-shirt, sir?  That’ll be £19.99.  “Now That’s What I Call Bigfoot Rock, Vol 1” vinyl compilation?  Just £27.99.  Can I change a fifty?  Oh, keep the change?  Thank you very much.

The Wizard Rifle Facebook page is here.

You can find Wizard Rifle on Bandcamp here.

The Ever Metal website is here.

Giant Dwarf – Giant Dwarf Album Review

And now, I present an album review I wrote for Ever Metal; a recording that became one of my favourites of 2019:

Giant Dwarf – Giant Dwarf

Self Released

Release date: 09/04/2019

Running Time: 36 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

 

I’ve never been to Australia.  Don’t need to go there really, I know exactly what it’s like.  It’s like that David Bowie video where he’s inside a big concrete block in the middle of nowhere.  “Let’s Dance” – that’s the one.  Or it’s like Mad Max 2: all arid desert, people surviving on dog food and a struggle to exist without civilisation.

So, it’s quite apt that such a barren, isolated place has decided to gift us with an album that is, quite frankly, a masterpiece of desert rock.  Or outback rock, if you will.

This is “Giant Dwarf”, by the band Giant Dwarf, who hail from somewhere called Perth in Western Australia.

Right from the start, with opener “Golden Walrus”, the album bursts from the speakers like Gandalf after a month-long Charles Atlas course.  The songs are tough and uncompromising, yet cerebral.  “Black Thumb” and “Kepler” in particular will make you put your foot down on the accelerator and bang your head – whilst absorbing the intricate tapestry of the universe.

It’s all pounding rhythms and hypnotic, repeating riffs.  On first encounter, the album seems very – shall we say, inspired by – Kyuss and the first Queens of the Stone Age album.  Aaron Soppo (vocals) can even do a pretty convincing Josh Homme impersonation.  Which is no bad thing, in my book – in fact, it’s a sure fired recipe for success.

Further investigation reveals far more than this obvious comparison, however.  As well as a more fuzzed-up guitar sound – not unlike a particularly fried Fu Manchu – there’s a trippy, psychedelic sheen to the muscular groove.  There’s even sitar and didgeridoo on here, in wave after wave of glorious chunky riff and rolling beats.

“The Deluge” illustrates this breadth of feeling with a six minute plus track that undulates between exuberant rocker and introspective meander in just one epic song.

If I have one small criticism, I’d like to hear a track like “Strange Wool” – a mind melting instrumental track that’s quite brilliant – dragged out to three times it’s two-minute length.  Even more development and experimentation would really push Giant Dwarf further into a new dimension.  But keep the edge-of-the-seat rockers too, OK guys?

“Giant Dwarf” comes within a koala’s cock of perfection.  Powerful like the venom of a Death Adder, yet enticing like Natalie Imbruglia.  It really is that good: from out of nowhere, an album that will surely be in my end of year Top Five.

Find Giant Dwarf on Facebook and on Bandcamp.

Check Giant Dwarf out on Spotify here.

There’s some cool stuff on YouTube here and here, too.

PS: apologies for the dig at Australia, it’s just a joke.  I’m sure it’s nice there really.

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock/Metal Albums of 2019

2019 has been an exceptional year for new music.  It started off slowly, but by the end of the year I was struggling to keep up.

As per last year, Ever Metal asked me to produce a Top Ten of my favourite rock and metal albums of the year.  So here we go:

  1. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn
  2. Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights
  3. Obey – Swallow The Sun
  4. Acid Reign – The Age of Entitlement
  5. Sunn O))) – Life Metal
  6. Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips
  7. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel – Very Uncertain Times
  8. Giant Dwarf – Giant Dwarf
  9. Monolord – No Comfort
  10. Crobot – Motherbrain

All fantastic records.  Honorable mentions this time to Kadavar, Firebreather, L7, Wizard Rifle and Duel.

For more rock reviews, interviews and top tens, head over to Ever Metal.

Happy New Year everybody – wishing you a very healthy and prosperous 2020!

And thanks for vising Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!  Make sure you come back next year, and if you’ve got any requests or suggestions, please get in touch.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #17

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 29th November 2019

Finally, months later, I made it to another Bring Your Own Vinyl Night.  It’s been far too long, but it was great to be back.  A few beers, some great food, and awesome music always makes for an entertaining evening.

Hosted by Halcyon Dreams in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold, North Wales, Bring Your Own Vinyl Night is an opportunity to be a DJ for a night.  Each person has a 15 minute slot to play whatever they like, vinyl only.

It’s never an easy task, narrowing down my collection to just a handful of songs to play.  I didn’t go for a theme this time, just a few tracks that I thought worthy of sharing.

Here’s what I unleashed:

Betty Davis – If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up

I decided to start the set with this funk-rock hybrid from cult soul singer and one time Mrs Miles Davis: the amazing Betty Davis.  I’d heard about Betty’s work on the grapevine; after checking this album out online I knew I had to track a vinyl copy down.  “If I’m in Luck…” is a raunchy number powered by hard rock guitar riffs and a phenomenally funky beat.  Highly recommended!

Iggy and the Stooges – Gimme Danger

My favourite track on the third Stooges record, “Gimme Danger” is a timeless classic.  The “Raw Power” album that housed it apparently fared badly on initial release, but blossomed with a cult following in later years.  Every home should have a copy of this fantastic record.  “Gimme Danger” lures the listener into a false sense of security with an unusually melodic guitar part, yet still weaves a web of debauchery and chaos.

The Cult – Lucifer

The Cult have been one of my favourite bands over the years, going right back to my teens with the “Love” and “Electric” albums.  They’re still delivering quality music, with the album “Choice of Weapon” (from which “Lucifer” is taken) being a highlight.  There’s a huge, epic riff driving this song – one of those tracks that I usually have to have on repeat, ‘cos just one play ain’t enough.

The Donnas – Who Invited You

In 2002, The Donnas released one of the best rock’n’nroll albums in years with “Spend the Night”, an energetic blend of AC/DC style hard rock and Ramones punk.  Sadly it was released in the CD age, so I don’t own a vinyl copy.  But I did hunt down the 7″ single of “Who Invited You” so that I can enjoy at least one magnificent song from the album on vinyl.  Re-issue, somebody, please!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was that – for me at least.  There were plenty of other great songs played throughout the evening which you can check out via the Halcyon Dreams links below.

In all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening – sharing the wonder of music and vinyl in a great pub.  I mustn’t leave it so long till my next Vinyl Night visit.

With thanks to Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music – well done guys!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

Obey – Swallow the Sun Album Review

Obey – Swallow the Sun

Self-released, Enso Music Management

Release date: 05/04/2019

Running Time: 37 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

OBEY!  CONSUME!  CONFORM!  Have you seen John Carpenter’s masterpiece of paranoid sci-fi, “They Live”?  It’s out standing.  Rowdy Roddy Piper puts on some special sunglasses and is able to see the aliens living amongst us, brainwashing and controlling society.  With the constant subliminal media messages exposed, Rod and his mates attempt to destroy the conspiracy and free the human race from subjugation.

I don’t know if Obey – the band – have ever seen this awesome movie, but these guys have definitely (to paraphrase Roddy) come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…  And they’re all out of bubblegum.

“Swallow the Sun” is the fourth album from Obey and it doesn’t disappoint.  The listener gets more thunderous, rhythmic riffing that bridges across hard rock and metal, courtesy of Steve Pickin (guitar/vocals), Dan Ryder (guitar/bass) and Ryan Gillespie (Drums).  Add in a progressive, exploratory approach that’s open to wide influences, and what we have here is an album full of ideas that constantly reveals new depths with repeated listens.

Take bombastic opening track “Back Home”: it starts out in familiar crunching guitar riff territory, but unleashes a huge chorus that’s catchier than Velcro underpants.  I wasn’t convinced on first listen, but this melody works so hard that despite being a surprise it’s a winner.

“Drive” offers more of the brutal riffing that Obey are known for, but with lush, melodic moments – not to mention a total classic rock lead.

Midway through the album is “Esmeralda and the Dam Blues”, a track that begins with a mellower, supernatural sound – giving way to a massive, chunky chorus.  These songs are extremely well constructed, taking the listener on a stellar journey that’s refreshing and far from obvious cliché.

Some of Obey’s influences appear to froth to the surface with the album’s title track, which has a feel of Mastodon about it.  Mix in some vintage Prong rifferama and the melodic tendencies of Alice in Chains and you’re a tiny step closer to understanding which star system the planet Obey revolves in.

Obey’s ability to meld face smashing heavy with unexpectedly tuneful moments gives this album it’s unique identity.  “Swallow the Sun” is the kind of album that you can rock out to (can’t wait to see these guys live again), or take your time and listen on headphones to savour the detail.

If anything, I’d like to see further experimentation from Obey as the band grows.  “Star Crusher” is an obscenely huge yet groovy COC style track, but sadly lasts less than a minute.  More experimentation with different interludes and variations of pace and intensity can only add more colour to their cosmic palate.

There’s very little to grumble about with “Swallow the Sun” though.  What we have is an intricately created collection of songs with maximum power and thoughtful embellishments.  Obey are a British band with real talent and ambition – check them out and lend them your support.

And beware of those ugly, skull faced aliens.  They want to keep you in line and be part of the system.  Get yourself some sunglasses and see what’s going on.  Open your eyes and fight!

This review appeared on the Ever Metal website and is reproduced here for your enjoyment.  Click here to visit the Ever Metal website.

www.facebook.com/obeyuk
www.youtube.com/obeyuk
www.instagram.com/obey_ bandpage
obeyuk.bandcamp.com 

Gama Bomb – Speed Between the Lines Album Review

Here’s my recent review of the new Gama Bomb album, which appeared on the Ever Metal website.  Reproduced here with permission; enjoy! 

Gama Bomb – Speed Between the Lines

AFM Records

Release date: 12/10/2018

Running time: 35.07

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

Hello and welcome to Thrash School.  For today’s lesson, you will need:

  • Skin tight jeans (preferably with ripped knees)
  • Faded Acid Reign t-shirt
  • Studded leather belt and 1x studded leather wrist band
  • White hi-top leather Converse
  • Black leather jacket (denim vest over jacket optional)
  • Baseball cap with “NOT” written under the peak

Because today we will be listening to the new album by Gama Bomb, entitled “Speed Between the Lines”.

These merry metallers have an uncanny ability to rewind the cassette of time to a simpler age.  It’s like grunge never happened.  Instead, we get twelve face-lacerating tunes that rush by in uncompromising fashion.  This is thrash metal, kids, buckle up for the ride.

Eighties thrash was often pre-occupied with party bum-out vibes like nuclear destruction.  Apparently, it’s a post-Cold War world though, so these boys don’t wallow in misery for too long.  Not that they don’t have a social conscience: witness the admirable stab at the current political climate in “Alt Reich”.

But they’re just as happy dedicating an ode to Kurt Russell, which is perfectly justified in my opinion.  Kurt is, of course, an icon of twentieth century popular culture.  Not convinced? Go watch The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China and you can thank me later.

Back to the music.  Although diversity isn’t Gama Bomb’s strong point – Master of Puppets this ain’t – the listener is rewarded with a dozen tracks that speed by relentlessly.  The musicianship is amazing, with blitzkrieg lead guitar all over the place.

The occasional change of pace would add some additional colour, but you can’t fault the commitment and enthusiasm of this band.  This album is the full package with cool themes and some of the best song titles I’ve heard in a long time (666teen? Give them an award NOW).  The music is intense and exciting in equal measure, bringing to mind classic Overkill, Anthrax and Nuclear Assault.

So dig out your old Variflex skateboard and ask your big brother’s mate to buy you a two litre bottle of cider from the Co-op.  With Gama Bomb you can party like it’s 1987.  This history lesson is over.

Visit the Ever Metal website here.

Imperial State Electric – Anywhere Loud album review

Another album review wot I wrote has appeared on the excellent EVER METAL website.  Please go take a look at the website, it’s awesome!  My review is reproduced here for your pleasure:  

Imperial State Electric – Anywhere Loud

Psychout Records

Release date: 16/02/2018

Running Time:

Review by: Alun Jones

7/10

Live albums, eh?  I’m not a huge fan.  A lot of the time they’re just cynical exercises in fleecing fans, getting them to pay again for songs they’ve already got.  And usually poorer quality, due to being in a “live” setting.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course.  Back in my days with KISS, the boys were struggling to step up to the mega bucks level after their first few albums.  I proposed that they record a live album, in order to try and capture their incredible live show.  That was what they were good at, see?  The studio albums were good, but live – wow, those kids could rock.  So eventually the four prima donnas came round to my suggestion, released “KISS – Alive” – and their super star status was assured.  Bang!  Mega platinum seller, through the roof, KISS had arrived.

Thanks to me.

Which brings me to this live release from Imperial State Electric.  Although it’s called “Anywhere Loud”, it could’ve been another KISS live album.  It’s big, bold and brash in a very Seventies Rock kinda way.  It’s almost like we’ve stepped into a time machine and arrived back in 1976.  Not that I’m complaining – these guys are all about fun, over the top rock’n’roll – just how it used to be.

A whopping 23 songs, the album certainly doesn’t scrimp on the tunes.  There are plenty of them, and the sound is reassuringly good throughout.  Snippets of audience noise and banter, applause and well performed improvisations help keep the energy – and authenticity – pushing the meters to overload.

Outstanding tracks in this collection include the catchy riffs of “Apologize”, “Reptile Brain” and “Uh Huh” – plus there’s a hint of their punkier side with a blinding version of The Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer”.  If you’re a fan of KISS, Cheap Trick and Blue Oyster Cult then “Anywhere Loud” is for you.  If, however, you’re not a worshipper of Seventies Rock like those aforementioned bands, this release probably won’t change your mind.

Which brings me back to KISS.  Of course the masks were my idea.  Though originally, I’d planned on Peter, the drummer, wearing a samurai style number.  So, you’d have had the Star Child, the Demon, the Space Ace and the Samurai.  Pretty good, yeah?  Except Peter changed his mind last minute and decided to be a cat, for fuck’s sake.  And just look how that worked out.

Visit the Ever Metal website here.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #14

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 13th April 2018

It’s been a while since I last attended Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, and boy did I miss it.  It was great to be back in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold with the chaps from Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music to spin some records.

If you’ve missed previous episodes (where HAVE you been?), it works like this:  Each person gets a fifteen minute set to play whatever songs they like, but only on vinyl.  Simple as that.  Throw in some beer and some music based chat and you’re in for a great time.

As it was getting close to Record Store Day, Tom from Halcyon Dreams pitched a challenge for us would-be DJs: our set had to be comprised of artists who would be releasing music on the day.

No problem, I thought.  Here’s how my set went:

Killing Joke – The Wait

To begin, a thunderously loud track from the first Killing Joke album.  A riff so mighty that Metallica covered it for their $5.98 EP, this tune also has an incessant tribal beat under the choppy punk guitar.  A great song from an essential album, in my opinion.  I’ve been a fan of KJ for a long time and they’re still turning out screaming punk/metal/industrial noise to this day.

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

Well you can’t go wrong with a bit of Johnny Cash, although I was surprised that this track really seemed to go down well with the pub crowd.  Regular readers will know how big a fan of Johnny Cash I am, he’s just unbeatable.  This classic song was taken from an old compilation I picked up at a record fair, crammed full of great tunes.  I’m glad to say this song seemed very popular!

L7 – Everglade

Another crushing riff, this time from the “Bricks Are Heavy” album from all-girl punk rock grungers L7.  My favourite song from that album, and one of my favourite bands from that era.  I saw the band live a couple of years ago at Download fest, they were amazing.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that girls can’t rock – L7 were the best band of the day.

The Members – Sound of the Suburbs

And finally, an old punk rock classic on 45rpm courtesy of the Members.  This track also seemed popular!  I only have the 7 inch single of this song, so I could do with tracking down some more records by them.  Great fun.

So that wraps up another Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, and what a great night it was! My mixing skills need some sharpening up, but I really enjoyed myself.  Well done Tom and Colin, looking forward to another bash soon.  I know those guys are very busy, but the Vinyl Nights are always a treat.  See you soon!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

PS – Great food in the Queen’s Head too.  £6 for a massive mixed grill!