Brant Bjork must be a very busy boy at the moment. We’ve already had an album out earlier this year from his desert rock supergroup, Stoner, and now here’s a solo effort too. He’s a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist singer song writer and no mistake, offering up sonic expeditions of varying styles and pace. Most of all, though, Brant seems to be a decent bloke who’d be ideal company for a beer or three.
For “Bougainvillea Suite”, we’re in a more laid back, but still rockin’ mode. The album is like a combination of Santana and Steppenwolf, full of relaxed but vital summer vibes. ‘Trip on the Wine’, our first song, has a similar stomp to The Door’s ‘Five to One’, but less angsty. The late 60s-early 70’s groove is maintained throughout, ‘So They Say’ embellished with a sweet, melodic construction and ‘Broke That Spell’ having an early Purple raunch.
Stoner band mate Ryan Gut adds percussion and keys, whilst the final member of that trio, Nick Oliveri, pops up on ‘Bread for Butter’. This track and ‘Ya Dig’ are two of the more direct, heads-down rockers, whilst the extended blues jam of ‘Who Do You Love’ is trippy territory augmented with some almost Stooges-like lead guitar. This last track is a real highlight, it’s like a long-forgotten experiment involving all of the bands I’ve mentioned!
And that’s it: eight songs that whilst not easy listening, can be mellow, psychedelic and still rock your bones. “Bougainvillea Suite” would make perfect summer evening listening, a beer and a BBQ as the clear sky fades to black, good times with good friends after a long day shredding a pool. But it’s been released in late Autumn, so what do I know? Just buy it and enjoy.
Battalions return with a pummelling new album, “King of a Dead World” from APF Records. THE APF label can be relied upon for quality releases, and there’s no doubting that here. Born of Hullfire – well, they come from Hull – and unleashed in streams of molten lava from the deepest catacombs, here Battalions are channelling all of their experience into a recording of sheer, elemental power.
It falls on the humbled shoulders of yours truly to attempt some journalistic summary of what we have here. But in short – if you’re already a fan of (or just familiar) with Battalions, just go ahead and buy this now. If you’re a new or curious listener, be prepared for a lesson in dense, thick Sludge. With a capital ‘S’.
The music Battalions let loose on the world combines the heaviosity of Sludge with a persistent groove, underlined with the unrelenting intensity of hardcore. First track ‘Green Boots’ demonstrates this perfectly, with a crushing riff that can make the listener nod their head and scream along.
Phil Wilkinson’s vocals are a harsh growl, well suited to the ferocity of tracks like ‘Parasite’. The guitars of Pete Cross are punishing but also full of variety, as shown on ‘Coughing Nails’ (great title). Meanwhile, Matthew Dennett on bass and Simon Harrison on drums manage to keep it all on track with precision.
‘Bones to Dust’ was another track that particularly impressed; a calmer start (by comparison) that erupts into a huge, bouncing riff which will sandpaper your face off.
“King of a Dead World” is chock full of great ideas and delivers on all of them. Though relatively short at 31 minutes, the album wastes nothing and doesn’t out stay it’s welcome – you’ll want to replay it again and again. It’s unforgiving, powerful and noisy – there’s no slumber on the Humber here. Instead, join Battalions on the Highway to Hull, it’s a full on, exciting ride and you won’t regret it.
A weekend of full on metal and hard rock, Pentre Fest is a highlight of my musical calendar. Held at McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales over two days, the event always showcases some of the best bands from around a vast area of the UK.
This year I missed Friday’s gig as I was otherwise engaged. However, I was raring to go for Day 2, and a whole load of awesome music. Here’s my review for Ever Metal, covering everything I could of that day’s entertainment.
Day 2 at Pentre fest – you could say I was a bit excited to get going. The ever-reliable Edd Case was performing in the marquee outside as I arrived, so I missed a chunk of his set sadly, as I paid my hard earned coin to get in and neck my first ale. Luckily, Edd did another slot of his excellent acoustic performance later on, so I got to catch him then. I think he was filling in for some band called Trashatouille, who couldn’t be arsed to turn up and attempt to play their own acoustic effort.
First band on the indoor main stage was Scarfoot, and they made a hell of an impression. A three-piece band, they add an extra edge to their already formidable musicianship with the use of a 12 string guitar or a Dobro. This gives the band a huge, Zep-epic and individual sound. They all play with a convincing passion and were absolutely enthralling. I’d never seen them before, but had caught singer/guitarist Oliver Carins last year doing a solo acoustic set. Next time, these guys need to be higher up the bill! Scarfoot also blazed all over the acoustic stage later on, with a similarly massive sounding set, even without the drums.
Next on the second stage: a World Exclusive Live Debut! Frank Williams in his first official live gig, though sadly not billed asVictim of Damp. Frank is a Pentre Fest die hard, an unsung hero who has supported the event and pitched in with Fozzie and Beany from the beginning. This afternoon, Frank graced us with some acoustic covers (nice bit of Floyd) and banter, then introduced some comrades to help with humorous originals such as ‘Beany’s Car is Full of Shit’. Excellent crowd participation helped Frank’s set gallop home as a pedigree winner.
It really wouldn’t be Pentre Fest without these guys. With a line-up change – or should I say, addition – in the shape of new vocalist, Gaz (who used to be the drummer. Come on, keep up!). This latest incarnation of Lullaby for a Unicorn was a refreshed and fun stallion, rather than a lame pony. There’s a little work to do to settle the new line-up in, but it was the same boisterous energy as ever as the Unicorn boys turned Pentre into a beautiful, rainbow adorned meadow. Or blood-soaked battle field of metal mayhem, you choose.
Scarfoot was next on the second stage. I’ve already covered that, go back and read it again.
Despite a tech issue with the bass throwing a wangler with the first song, The Human Condition kept their shit together and provided another surprise. I had done no research whatsoever and didn’t know what to expect. By Odin’s beard, The Human Condition are a megalithic, doom metal colossus! Doom in the vein of Candlemass, or think Geoff Tate screaming for Trouble. Riffs are drip fed, leaving the audience begging for each new note. Add the most powerful live vocals I’ve heard in eons, and you have a force of biblical proportions. I bought a CD. You should check them out NOW.
Back to the Second stage for an acoustic Pelugion set – but we’ll get to them later.
A melodic deathcore band from Manchester way, Portrayal of Ruinn isn’t quite my thing on paper, but fucking awesome live. Possibly the most energetic band on stage at Pentre Fest all day, their combination of gutsy, nasty metal and bouncy, yet ferocious vocals proved a winner. They also know how to pace their set brilliantly – a few mellow sections lull the crowd into a comfy security blanket, only to have it ripped maliciously away. It’s the audio equivalent of a Video Nasty psycho killer – you’re never safe, Portrayal of Ruinn will never stop – and they will get you in the end!
Reading back my notes here, and I can’t make a thing out of them. All I can fathom is that I REALLY liked this band: “Syncolima = great!” is about all I’ve got. They were excellent. Some kind of biker/stoner super heavy rock, they have groove aplenty and massive fuzzed out riffs. This three-piece from Mansfield, Notts were unmissable. New album “Wavelengths” is out soon, you’d be wise to watch out for it.
Wait a minute – it’s that bloke from Bad Earth doing an acoustic set! Yes, it’s Steve from one of Pentre Fest’s favourite bands, backed with the other two ‘orrible ‘erberts, Karl and Ben (so semi acoustic, then?). The Bad Earth songs translate surprisingly well to the stripped-down sound, though they can’t compare to the full force fury of the full trio amped up and going for it. But then, what could? A great set that also included some cruel (ie hilarious) comedy signage behind Steve’s head, it also delivered a much needed bongo workout that was otherwise sadly lacking this year.
Mind. Blown. Thank the trident of Posiedon, King Kraken travelled up from South Wales (a right old trek) to play Pentre Fest, and I’m so glad they did. The Kraken are a huge, boisterous metal machine with crushing riffs and awash with an almost psychedelic lead guitar. My favourite band of the day, despite fierce competition – I made off with some booty from the merch desk and toasted their performance with a tankard of ale. Please check this band out, you will not regret it. Magnificent!
Last year, one man electronica fiend Leatherback was first on the Pentre Fest main stage. This year, it’s a second stage headlining slot, which worked well. Nine Inch Nails comparisons are obvious, but relevant when there’s a cover of a Reznor classic included. Leatherback ripped through a roaring set that went down extremely well with the lively crowd, even though it was freezing outside – receiving a well-deserved, enthusiastic reception.
Pelugion had performed an excellent acoustic set on the second stage earlier, which seems to have been a great way for them to warm up for their main stage appearance. I’ve seen these guys before at Pentre Fest and they never disappoint. Skull smashing mega riffs, born from Sabbath and with a dose of Alice in Chains and early Soundgarden – a stoner/alt metal monster – is what you can expect. These guys are super professional, but with grit and determination that keeps the performance compelling.
Headliners on the final day of Pentre Fest, The K*nts drove over five hours from down Essex way to entertain us. With hits such as that Christmas favourite ‘Boris Johnson is a F*cking C*nt’ and ‘F*ck the Tories’, we knew we were in for a treat. Hilariously, the Green Room reserved for the bands had been double booked with a meeting for a local Masonic Lodge. I wonder how The K*nts and this bunch of blazer-and-badge wearing eighty-year-olds got along back stage. Honestly, you can’t make this shit up. It’s like Phoenix Nights on crack.
A strange choice to headline a metal festival for some, never the less The K*nts put on a top show and had the audience on their side before the first song was even finished. Delightfully obscene, but with a political edge that helps retain a tiny bit of highbrow cred too, it’s like Sham 69 with Tourette’s. Most of the song titles are unrepeatable for a family website like Ever Metal, but let’s just say that The K*nts and their filthy brand of punk rock and humour were a mad but genius way to finish Pentre Fest off. And it probably will be finished off, if those old Masonic dudes have anything to say about it.
Oh, and yeah – Fuck the Tories.
It was my absolute pleasure to cover Pentre Fest for Ever Metal again this year. Huge thanks to the bands, the audience, and the staff at McLean’s for putting this on. And finally, thanks to Fozzy and Beany for daring to dream it up and make it happen.
I just wish Pentre Fest could be every weekend. Or once a month, at least.
More Trouble! Another welcome re-issue from Trouble’s back catalogue courtesy of Hammerheart records, here we have their 2013 album “The Distortion Field”, back in circulation. This was the last studio effort the band have released (at this time) – and with vocalist Eric Wagner (RIP) absent, replaced by Kyle Thomas (of Exhorder and Alabama Thunderpussy).
Sure enough, things get off to a solid start with a thunderous ‘When the Sky Comes Down’ and ‘Paranoia Conspiracy’, both reliably Trouble-some rockers. The album really picks up a gear or three with ‘The Broken Have Spoken’, a lumbering riff juggernaut that reminded me of Pantera. Then there’s ‘Sink or Swim’, a mighty, pacey mountain shaker with a chorus hook so big it could reel in a Kraken.
There’s little of the psychedelic, hippy journeys found on the Def American albums. Instead, there’s the almost ballad ‘Have I Told You’, which haunts like vintage Alice in Chains. The quality only dips with ‘Glass of Lies’, which is a little too barroom boogie for me – though the last section of the song thankfully reverts to a funereal doom speed.
For the most part though, songs like ‘Hunters of Doom’ deliver exactly the kind of chugging riffology that the listener would expect. ‘Butterflies’ illustrates Trouble’s doom strategy perfectly again – slow, heavy crunch with another almighty chorus.
Add in the bonus track ‘The Apple from the Snake’ and this is prime Trouble. Newcomers may want to start with something from the band’s earlier work, but a re-issue of “The Distortion Field” is fantastic news for fans. Add this record to your collection and keep your fingers crossed for something new in the near future.
My mate Keith Moon was a trouble maker who needed no introduction – blowing up toilets, scrappy food fights and driving limousines into swimming pools. He was good as gold round at his old mum’s house, though. I went there once with Keith, and it was all very pleasant. Cup of tea, slice of cake, lovely conversation with Mrs Moon. Very down to earth. Until I got home later that is, and spent the entire evening on the loo. Moony told me later that his mum – another practical joker – had laced my food with laxatives. Very bloody funny.
The mighty Trouble! A release from these titans of doom metal is always worth celebration, and this is no exception. Back in the early 90s, this cult band were verged on the edge of a mainstream breakthrough, with two albums on the Rick Rubin helmed Def American Records (also home to Slayer, Danzig, Black Crowes and others). Alas, it was not to be: this eternal underground favourite was to remain just that.
“One for the Road” followed the second, self-titled Def American album, as a limited-edition European tour EP. This re-release bundles that with a full length “unplugged” album: remastered to provide a fully upgraded compilation.
The first five songs comprise that “One for the Road” EP, with first track ‘Goin’ Home’ bursting from the speakers with exactly the kind of exciting hard rock you’d expect as a Trouble opener. ‘Window Pain’ offers a pulsating, mid paced doom rocker, whilst ‘Requiem’ brings the tempo down further with a melancholy, gloomy metal dirge. The Black Sabbath influence is most obvious on ‘Another Day’, whilst ‘Doom Box’ raises the tempo a little but still holds a candle to Dio era Sabs. Some of these songs would turn up in different form on later albums, but this EP brings together an excellent capsule that fits neatly into that mid 90s period.
Back in the early/mid 90’s, “unplugged” albums were all the rage. Like others of that era, this Trouble entry into that genre isn’t always stripped down totally to just vocals and acoustic guitar: there’s still electric guitar, drums and more to embellish the tracks were necessary. The strings added to this second version of ‘Requiem’ are exceptionally orchestrated and serve the mood of the piece brilliantly. That said, ‘7.00 AM’ is a remarkably restrained and beautiful song, recalling Sabbath and also Trouble worshippers Soundgarden.
Those songs – and the other tracks comprising the “Unplugged” part of this release – offer a relaxed side of the band that explores more of their psychedelic, sixties interests (see their cover of The Yardbirds’ ‘Heartful of Soul’). It’s a release that even my eleven-year-old daughter appreciated. The only mis-step is the jaunty jig of ‘Smile’, which is just too jangly and nice. Yet have no fear, the version of ‘Misery’ showcased here (released as ‘The Misery Shows’ on the eponymous Def American release) reminds us just how great this band were.
My only major issue is the cover art. That may seem petty when this is a review of the band’s music, but as a long-term Trouble fan, I’m considering buying the vinyl copy for my collection. And that vile cover may well deter me from doing so. Trouble has a great logo, but the cover squanders this with nothing other than the title, in what looks like – GASP! – Comic Sans MS! A font that should only be used by primary school teaching assistants, it dates and also ridicules the stature of the music. It’s a truly vile and lazy cover – seemingly thrown together by a Johnny-No-Stars work experience boy on his lunchbreak. Awful. Couldn’t someone have redesigned it?
I’m docking points for that, ‘cos the cover mocks all I hold holy. Beyond that, fantastic music and a must for any Trouble fan.
You could say I was a little confused when I first heard “The Endless Ocean Overture”, the opening track on this second album from Scarecrow. I know the clue’s in the song title, but this really is a big, full on orchestral piece – complete with moody storm sounds and crashing waves. I thought the Ever Metal Delivery Monkey had sent me one of those symphonic metal monstrosities by mistake – there are NO GUITARS here. At least not on the first song.
Not that it’s a bad track – it’s actually very atmospheric and very bloody clever. Just a bit of a surprise, that’s all.
Scarecrow are a Russian doom rock band, taking their inspirations from the classic seventies masters like Sabbath and Zeppelin. When track 2 – “Blizzard” – kicked in, I realised my mistake. Yes, here we have it: blues based heavy rock that could have easily been produced in 1973. Groovy riffs, batteringly good drum breaks, high pitched wailing vocals – all the tropes are present and correct. “Blizzard” has all these, plus relentless changes of pace which means the listener can bang their head or swing their bell bottom jeans all in one song.
“Magic Flower” has a slower, doom blues sound with some mouth organ for additional retro stylings. There’s even a folky mid-section with some Plant-esque banshee screams. Up next is “Spirit Seducer”, a rocker that’s more of the Iommi sound already hinted at, and some pounding rhythm.
Scarecrow are nothing if not ambitious. “The Moors” is a hell of an epic: warm acoustic guitar intro; doom laden heavy riff, ethereal keys: all the ingredients are here, and happily we reach another Sabbath like peak in the middle of the song. Some of the orchestral feel of the opener makes a well-judged return here, adding to the bombast.
When I heard the intro to “The Golden Times”, it was easy to make the comparison to Sabbath tracks like “Orchid” and “Fluff”. This song flows along serenely, with the vocals making me think I’d started listening to a new Wolfmother recording. Another multi part piece, best to just mellow out and enjoy the ride – till the increasing pace runs off with your ears.
The range and scope of this album really is very impressive. “Scarecrow II” is an accurate love letter to the giants of yester year, whilst firmly placing the bands feet alongside contemporaries like Uncle Acid and Graveyard. Scarecrow has delivered an album that features new spins on the old ideas co-existing with brave, surprising augmentations.