Nebula – Album Review

Nebula – Transmissions from Mothership Earth

Heavy Pysch Sounds Records

Release date: 22.07.2022

Running time: 39 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

As I write this, we’re sweltering in a record-breaking heatwave.  North Wales, which is where I’m based – and also where the nerve centre of Ever Metal can be found – has had some of the highest temperatures in the whole of the UK.  It’s crazy.  And so, a new album from desert rock titans Nebula seems extremely apt right now.  “Transmissions from Mother Ship Earth” has arrived at exactly the right time.

And it arrives with a welcome burst of fuzz drenched psych rock, exactly as expected, in first track, ‘Highwired’.  Big fat riff, dashes of space rock and a whiff of herbal cigarettes: classic Nebula, really.  Up next is the title track, which adds some nice, sixties secret agent vibes to the melting pot, together with a punishingly heavy section.

‘Wilted Flowers’ begins with a mellow guitar section before exploding into a thunderous head tripper.  There’s a feel of Mudhoney and the Stooges with Nebula’s best work, as evidenced here and with ‘Melt Your Head’.  Other tracks like ‘Warzone Speedwulf’ and “The Four Horseman’ sound like early Monster Magnet dripped in acid fried Steppenwolf and left to dry in a Tarantino desert landscape.    

No surprises then with this latest Nebula release, and with titles like ‘I Got So High’ you can guess exactly what to expect.  But who cares?  “Transmissions from Mothership Earth” is a solid album of pounding rhythms and spaced-out fuzz rock.  It’s bound to make my end of year best of list, and right now it’s the perfect soundtrack for summer.  Enjoy, fellow explorers – it’s gonna piss it down with rain tomorrow.

Talking about nebula and space and galaxies and all that, did I tell you about the great telescope trick we played on Bill Ward once?  It was at Brian May’s house, and he’s well into all that astrology business.  Bri’s got this huge telescope for star gazing.  So Tony, Ozzy, Geezer and me persuaded Bill to take a look.  What he didn’t know was that Brian had put black paint inside the lens, so Bill ended up with a great big, black monocle on his face.  Bill didn’t realise, and walked round like that all night – extremely paranoid as to why all the guests were laughing at him.  Great fun!

You can find Nebula on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Check out Heavy Psych Records online and on Bandcamp.

This review is a Platinum Al and Ever Metal joint presentation.

Sergeant Thunderhoof – Album Review

Sergeant Thunderhoof – This Sceptred Veil

Pale Wizard Records

Release date: 03/06/2022

Running time: 69 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

OK: so for once, I’m kinda stuck for words.  How do I tackle this album, the new offering from Sergeant Thunderhoof?  I mean, we can go through a song-by-song overview; try to describe the listening experience for the reader, make comparisons to other bands in a lame attempt to get the message across.  But what I really need – or want – to do, is SELL it.  Because I care about you, Ever Metal readers, and I don’t want you to miss out.  “This Sceptred Veil” is a fantastic record.

Our opening song ‘You’ve Stolen the Words’ lays Sergeant Thunderhoof’s wares out on the table from the off.  A mammoth, heavy riff erupts from the speakers and drags the listener along like a tin can in a hurricane.  This is a big sound.  Mark Sayers guitars are momentous, epic on a biblical scale.  Comparisons to Soundgarden are obvious but apt, particularly considering the Olympian vocals of Daniel Flitcroft, soaring on every song.

If I was gonna make more lazy comparisons, there’s a hint of spacey Monster Magnet raunch on ‘King Beyond the Gates’ and maybe even some Maiden gallop on ‘Show Don’t Tell’.  Both tracks testify that the rhythm section – Jim Camp on bass and Darren Ashman on drums – have the skills to rev the engine as well as groove along on the more cerebral tracks.

Speaking of the cerebral, it’s the lengthy prog work outs that differentiate Thunderhoof from other similar artists.  As much as I love the rockin’ numbers (shout out too for ‘Devil’s Daughter’), these guys are extremely comfortable wandering into the realms where Mastodon rule.  Witness ‘Avon and Avalon’ Parts I and II: two tracks that, whilst not exactly mellow, certainly take their time to explore and build a musical soundscape.  It’s thrilling.

Running at around the 69-minute mark, there is a lot to discover here.  You’re going to need to devote some time to this baby, but don’t fret – you’ll be massively rewarded if you do.  So please forgive the hard sell.  I only mention similar bands in an attempt to reach out to fans who I know will dig this, too.  Sergeant Thunderhoof have created a superb album in “This Sceptred Veil” – one of the best of the year, so far.  Don’t miss it.   

Check out Sergeant Thunderhoof on Facebook, Bandcamp and Instagram.

You can find Pale Wizard Records on Facebook, Bandcamp and their interwebs page.

This review has been brought to you by Ever Metal and Platinum Al.

UK Subs – XXIV/Yellow Leader Album Review

UK Subs – XXIV/Yellow Leader

Captain Oi/Cherry Red Records

Release date: 27/05/2022 and 08/07/2022

Running time: 38 mins and 52 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10 and 8.5/10

Recap time: regular readers may remember that yours truly recently reviewed the re-issue of “Work in Progress” by punk veterans UK Subs.  You may also recall that that album covered the letter W in the bands ongoing mission to release an album for every letter of the alphabet.  Well, the good news is that Captain Oi/Cherry Red Records are also releasing the next two instalments in the series – that’s the letters X and Y (but you knew that).

Working through chronologically, we have “XXIV” – which the lovely record company peeps have released on drool-worthy double 10” vinyl, one green, one clear.  Yummy.  Our first song is an absolute belter: the full-on turbo romp ‘Implosion 77’.  Hold on tight and buckle up!  There’s plenty more fast’n’nasty thrills on offer too: ‘Speed’ has a merciless UK82 vibe; ‘Monkeys’ has a classic Subs singalong chorus; ‘Garden of Good & Evil’ is another pogo-till-your-pants-fall-off rocker.

There’s some well-placed variety too, with the harmonica adorned political thrust of ‘Coalition Government Blues’; and Bo Diddley swagger of ‘Wreckin’ Ball’ – both showing hints of the bands R’n’B origins (like as in, what R’n’B used to be).  Lyrically there are plenty of targets for Charlie to attack, both politically and socially.  ‘Memento Mori’ finishes the album off with one most aggressive tunes on offer, leaving us with a great album of 14 adrenaline infused songs.

“Yellow Leader” follows in a similar fashion, featuring 18 songs (whereas the original vinyl was cut to just 14 due to running times).  To be released on slinky, divine double 10” vinyl (one red, one turquoise here), it’ll be a feast for the eyes and ears.  Again, the album is crammed with more relentless punk rock shenanigans like ‘Sick Velveteen’, ‘Chemical’ and ‘Heathens’, all of which will have you jumping around the room like a monkey on a lava stream.

As the previous record, there’s plenty of other sounds and ideas here: single ‘Sin City Blues’ has a killer rockabilly feel; and ‘Rebellion Song’ breaks out the acoustic guitar.  The only mis-step is ‘Archaeology’, a strange post -punk/goth style experiment that while not awful, isn’t a total success.  All in all, the quality of music is impressively high and the recordings sound excellent.

And there you go, music lovers: not one, but TWO albums of mighty UK Subs songs, lovingly compiled and curated by those nice folks at Captain Oi/Cherry Red Records.  You lucky people.  Pick ‘em up while you can, nobody is this fortunate twice.    

You can find UK Subs on Facebook and Twitter.

Cherry Red Records have a website. Plus you can find them on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and Bandcamp.

This review is a joint presentation from Ever Metal and Platinum Al.

Trouble – Album Review

Trouble – One for the Road/Unplugged

Hammerheart Records

Release date: 11/02/2022

Running time: 67 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

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.

RIP Eric Wagner

For more info, check out the Trouble website, their Facebook page or Bandcamp page.

Hammerheart Records also have a website, Facebook and Bandcamp.

This review has been brought to you by Platinum Al in partnership with Ever Metal.

Pentre Fest 2022

Pentre Fest 2022

McLean’s Pub, Pentre, Deeside

25th and 26th February, 2022

February 2022 saw the long awaited return of Pentre Fest. After falling victim to the pandemic, this local metal festival was revived and came back harder than ever. Two days of metal/rock, hosted in McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales – I was over joyed to revisit this fantastic event.

Friday evening was headlined by Raised by Owls, with appearances by In Depths and my old mates Ryuko, amongst others (see the reviews below).

Saturday saw the largest audience ever at Pentre Fest, not surprising considering the legendary Blaze Bayley was headlining. Add performances from Absolva, Cadence Noir, Reaper, plus many more and it all equalled a spectacular day’s entertainment.

Despite a few of the advertised artists having to drop off due to the plague, there was a legit feast of music of various hard rockin’ types, spread over two stages. It was so good to be back: a feeling everyone seemed to share, bands and gig goers alike.

You can read the full review on the Ever Metal website here. Just for the hell of it, here are the bands that I reviewed personally.

Friday 25/02/2022

Navnlos

The first band I caught this year was Navnlos, so that was a pretty good start!  These guys deliver some heavy groove metal, powerful and relentless.  I also detected something of a nasty grunge element, like Tad jamming Pantera songs in Venom’s garage.  Navnlos feature evil riffs, primal rhythms and ogre like vocals – it’s the sound of a rampaging army of berserkers storming your tea party.  Bloody great way to kick things off!  

Hellfire Devilles

Some may have wondered how a psychobilly band would go down at a metal festival.  Well, turns out that Hellfire Devilles fitted in snugger than Tommy Lee’s underpants.  A raucous, rock’n’roll three-piece trading in high energy, foot on the gas music – these guys wrought crazy voodoo all over the outside stage.  Thumping drums, frantic guitar and slapping upright bass – along with monster movie lyrics – the set was an absolute joy.   This was freaky tiki, cocktail chaos a go-go: Killerbilly has arrived!  Do not miss Hellfire Devilles if you get chance to see them.  Main stage next time, please.

Saturday 26/02/2022

Bad Earth

Although happily installed as Pentre Fest regulars, Bad Earth have had anything but a comfortable couple of years.  With the band reduced to just founder member Geordie at one point, the addition of new members Karl and Ben has reinvigorated this band beyond belief.  Big, fast, dirty, non-stop biker rock that would make my old mate Lemmy very proud indeed, Bad Earth played brilliantly and performed a highlight set.  The term “power trio” does not do justice here: more like “annihilation trio”.  I wore my Bad Earth t-shirt ‘cos I’m a fanboy, you can fuck objective journalism sky high.

Wrath of Man

My first experience of these guys and they were intense, with a capital “fucking hell mate, who just punched my teeth out?”.  Originally slated to appear earlier, Wrath of Man were delayed due to a horde of Visigoths on the A55 (Bad Earth moved their own set to accommodate).  The Wrath encapsulate a steaming metal cauldron of brutal riff and thrashy ferocity, topped with growling vocals that suddenly bloom into melodically sung choruses.  Uncompromising, surprising and you should check them out, like now.

Master Charger

RIFF OVERLOAD!  Quick, pals – jump on Al’s Master Charger fun bus, we’re starting a club for MC fanboys and I’ve saved you all a seat!  I’d listened to Master Charger before, but never seen them live – and oh, what beauty I did behold.  Sludgier than a dirty bath, doomier than the Goat of Mendes, we sold our souls for Master Charger and they gave us a blinding set of fuzzy, scuzzy rock.  Seriously supreme, this trio destroyed all before them – afterward, I destroyed their merch table because yes, I bought bloody everything!  I’m not pissing about, Master Charger were AMAZING.

And that’s it. More soon, I hope. As always, major respect to Fozzy, Beany and crew for making this happen. Please check out the bands above and share the love.

Catch up with news at the following pages: N.E.W. Metal Productions, Goodfor Audio, McLeans Pentre.

Duel – Album Review

Duel – In Carne Persona

Heavy Psych Sounds (Purple Sage PR)

Release date: 01/10/2021

Running Time: 39 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

Wait, it can’t be time for a new Duel album, surely?  It only seems like yesterday that I reviewed their last work for Ever Metal.  Time flies when you’re having fun, eh?  Well, that last album “Valley of Shadows”, also from Heavy Psych Sounds, was released back in 2019 – so yes, it’s time for more Duel.  My cryo-freeze unit must have kept me out of trouble for longer than I thought.

Austin, Texas is where they came from, though Duel’s real home is good ol’ heavy metal and greasy hard rock.  Whereas with the previous record review, I made comparisons to stoner rock and 70’s proto metal, this time around, “In Carne Persona” has a much more trad metal approach.  Thundering out of the gates on the very first track, “Children of the Fire” has a galloping, early Maiden sound. 

The NWOBHM influence rages throughout the album, with some classic Sabbath heaviness and Thin Lizzy style melody for good measure.  Second track “The Veil” illustrates both sides of those 70s references with a pounding riff and laser sharp solo.

Tracks like “Anchor” and “Bite Back” take the intensity of Trouble or Saint Vitus and ramp up the pace with a ferocious Priest-like power.  “Lizard Tongue” delivers the boogie, whilst final track “Blood on the Claw” provides an epic finish to the proceedings.  Bringing the album to a huge and satisfying conclusion; it builds slowly, contrasting heavy chugging sections with refrained passages.

Superb bombastic vocals crown masterful musicianship that evokes the past masters, making “In Carne Persona” another triumphant album from Duel.  Throughout it all, Duel create a dark and brooding atmosphere, that effectively stamps their own authenticity on the old template.  Dark but never grim, it’s always exciting.

I remember a duel of sorts in my days with Purple.  One night whilst on tour somewhere, we decided to have a game of beer Russian roulette.  Thirty cans of lager on the table, one had been shaken up by yours truly and placed randomly back amongst the others.  Participants would then open one can at a time next to their ear; one unlucky player would obviously suffer the frothy consequences.

Gillan, Lord and Blackmore all started well – springing open cans next to their heads which didn’t explode, so they could drink them down.  Eventually, and inevitably, it was Ritchie who took the shaken beer to the head, he was soaked and screamed petulantly at Gillan, blaming the singer for his misfortune.  It wasn’t like he didn’t know what to expect!  Blackmore stormed off leaving the rest of us in hysterics.  What was really funny was, when Ritchie wasn’t looking, I’d switched cans on him with another frothed up bullet.  Ha!

Check out Duel on Facebook, Bandcamp and Spotify.

Heavy Psych Sounds are cool and you should check them out here. Plus, they have Facebook, Bandcamp and YouTube.

This hard rockin’ review was brought to you by Platinum Al and Ever Metal.

Live in the Mojave Desert – Album Review

Various Artists – Live in the Mojave Desert

Heavy Psych Sounds Records

Release date: Various

Running time: Various

Review by: Alun Jones

Rating: see below

Hello there!  Remember me?  It’s me, that bloke who occasionally reviews albums for Ever Metal and spins ropey old yarns about rock’n’roll.  Yeah, him.  Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, had a few things on my all-you-can-eat buffet plate recently.  More about that another time (if the lawyers allow me).  For now, recline in your favourite easy chair, and let’s review.  With me?  Good.

Right then, bit of a mammoth task, this one.  “Live in the Mojave Desert” is actually a series of five albums, each recorded live (of course) amongst the sand and rocks of the Californian desert.  It’s probably like Star Trek, when Kirk and crew are roaming around the cliffs and valleys – but in the dark, and with guitars and lights and stuff – and no one dies (hopefully).

Up first in my sequence of albums is the legendary Earthless, a band who should need no introduction.  I listened to their offering whilst on a trip to North Wales; sadly the surf was flat, but the sonic musings of this three piece fitted perfectly the rolling roads between green valleys and big skies.  In the land of druids and standing stones, witches and warriors, this was a perfect soundtrack.  The songs are a journey in themselves, awash with psychedelic Hendrix style explorations.  Only three songs, but they’re plenty lengthy and offer huge scope.  It’s actually quite beautiful. (9/10)

Next on the list was Mountain Tamer, a band I’m not familiar with previously, but a cool name.  And a cool name goes a long way with me.   The Mountain Tamer sound is raw and in-your-face, with mighty, meaty riffs that clunk around in full-on doom style.  There’s also a mind expanding, trippy element to their music, leaving me with the impression of Black Flag in a collision with Hawkwind.  This unique approach is best exemplified by stand out tracks “Black Noise” and “Scorched Earth”, but it’s all damn fine. (8/10)

An offering in this series from my old buddies Nebula was very welcome, their brand of psych drenched sci-fi hard rock being something I’m somewhat partial to.  This is the album with the most obviously “live” feel – not that it’s sloppy at all, the very occasional tiny imperfections and wall of fuzz give a genuine and celebratory vibe.  Opening track “To the Centre” is a feedback drenched, blistering explosion.  “Giant” is another standout track with a bouncing, crazy gonzo riff. (8/10)

Spirit Mother are another band I’ve not heard before, and they were a real surprise.  Their first song, “Tonic (Exodus Inc)” is straight off the soundtrack of some forgotten Italian/Turkish 1970s horror movie.  The band take the standard desert/doom rock and add violin, and everything veers off in a totally unexpected direction.  From mournful 70s rock on “Ether” to creating their own genre of gothic Spaghetti Western (“Dead Cells”), it’s like Morricone on peyote orchestrating The Exorcist.  Strangely beguiling. (8.5/10)

The album I listened to last in the collection was the debut release of STÖNER, the very aptly named stoner rock “supergroup” which features Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, solo etc) and Nick Oliveri (Kyuss, QOTSA, Mondo Generator etc etc).  With Brant’s drummer, Ryan Güt whacking the tubs.  As a fan of these rogues’ other bands, I was definitely curious about this release.  No fear here: this is exactly what I hoped it would be: desert rock royalty.  “Rad is Rad” features a relentless, rolling bassline that drags the listener along on a head-nodding journey whilst Brant croons in his laid-back manner.  The big, groovy bass continues in “The Older Kids”, and the tracks develop a trancelike vibe as it progresses.  And strap yourself in for the final song, “Tribe/Fly Girl” – over 13 minutes that will melt your eyeballs.  Definitive. (9/10)

That’s it: five albums, five bands, and a mind-blowing excursion into the remote desert valleys.  Whether showcasing how it should be done, or abducting the listener in a smoke-filled UFO to be probed in new realms, these live collections are a trip.

Here’s a ton of links! Click away for more info on this awesome music…

Start with Heavy Psych Sounds, they have a website, Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.

Earthless do the web thing here, with some Facebook and Twitter.

Mountain Tamer kick in the sky with Facebook and Bandcamp.

Go crazy with Nebula via Facebook.

Spirit Mother have you covered with some weberation, Facebook, Bandcamp and Insta.

Finally, have a look at Stoner’s web presence here and Facebook it too.

This review was brought to you by Platinum Al in association with Ever Metal.

Brown Acid: The Twelfth Trip – Album Review

Various Artists – Brown Acid: The Twelfth Trip

RidingEasy Records

Release date: 20/04/2020

Running time: 33 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

Well, who’d have thought it?  Here’s the twelfth instalment of the Brown Acid series from RidingEasy Records, their ongoing exploration of rare, lost and forgotten treasures from the late 60s and early seventies.  These proto-metal, hard rock and heavy psych riches are continuing to turn up, thankfully curated and shared with a new, wider audience.  They still haven’t run out of steam, which is very good news.   

This time, the Professors of Rock (“Prockfessors”, anyone?  Nah, never mind) have released ten more crazily good tracks from the past.  As can be expected, the bands are deep fried and the guitars are fuzzier than a Macdonalds burger-flipper’s chin.

And so, we commence with “Mother Samwell” by The Waters: a blinding, acid-drenched rocker from 1969.  How can this have been lost for so long?  Up next is “Vibrations” by Village S.T.O.P.; featuring Hendrix style guitar in another pacey rocker.  Though very much of their time, these songs pack a ton of energy – you’re gonna want to freak out.  Right out.

“1930” was quite a year, claim White Lightning, with a funky, chunky marauder of a tune that’s like Grand Funk, on the rare occasions GF got it right.  Shane serves up some proper skronky organ with “Woman (Don’t You Go)”, reminiscent of a shrieky, early Purple.  Then the keyboards get even skronkier with Ace Song Service’s “Persuasion”, though the attack is harsher.

Opus Est really kick out the jams with “Bed”, which has a killer riff that would please Gibbons or Page.  The Mopptops have a terrible band name (maybe that’s why they disappeared), but their song “Our Lives” is one of the heavier, more vicious sounding tracks here.  It’s a punk rock bruiser that seems totally out of time – surely this can’t be 1968?

A bland band name, but Artist inject their song “Every Lady Does It” with enough hip-shaking Hendrix raunch to raise the roof.  Great chorus too; this is faultless.  Then it’s more great lo-fi garage ZZ Top with “Comin’ Home” by Stagefright, before we finish with Dickens (great name!) and their weird fuzz metal with minimal production, “Don’t Talk About My Music”.

Whether they’re discovering hidden gems in dusty tombs, or exhuming abandoned corpses and bringing them back to life – pick your metaphor: the RidingEasy Forensics Department have managed to surprise yet again.  Their quest seems never ending, but we can be thankful that these dedicated scholars continue to discover hitherto abandoned sonic delights.

It’s harder to pick out gems which shine brighter than the others this time around, but “Brown Acid: the Twelfth Trip” manages to reach a high standard across the board.  Very enjoyable, and recommended listening for when Jimi and Janis pop round for some mushroom tea.

Why not do some internets with RidingEasy records on their website, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Insta?

This review was proudly presented by Platinum Al in association with Ever Metal.

1968 – Album Review

1968 – Salvation, If You Need…

Self-released & No Profit Recordings

Release date: 20/04/2021

Running time: 44 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

For this review of “Salvation, If You Need…”, the second album from UK stoner rock titans 1968, I promise that there will be no messing about, no silly stories, no nonsense whatsoever.  I’m not even drinking.  Rather, I will endeavour to write a serious review that treats this album with the respect it deserves.  Not enough respect to get the article written on schedule, mind; but hey – I never said I was perfect.

Anyone familiar with 1968 from their previous efforts will not be disappointed to learn that the band’s strengths are in full flow here.  Thankfully, they’ve also pushed boundaries and explored their psychedelic tendencies further than ever before.  Witness opening track “Railroad Boogie”, which teases a funky Blaxploitation groove before unleashing the glorious big riff sound that we expect.

Comparing 1968 to Kyuss is far too obvious and lazy.  Jimi Ray’s voice has some of that gruff John Garcia sound (with a little later-period TSOL vocalist Joe Wood), though his vocals have matured to a sincere, soulful timbre.  See also, guitarist Sam Orr: schooled in Sabbath riffology and Lizzy attitude, here his Hendrix aspirations are allowed to fly unrestrained.  Magnificent washes of sound cascade and add colour everywhere, without being obtrusive.

“Blackwing” is the highlight for me: a refrain that’ll slip into your ears and lodge there.  It’s pointless trying to remove it.  Whether happy accident or hard slog, this is an epic riff.  “Eastern Wind” follows a similar path, but offers enough of its own controlled chaos to stand on its own two feet. 

Tom Richards’ bass warms up “Here It Lies” and expertly keeps the vibe dialled on a grungy, early Soundgarden pace.  The raw, unrefined blues of “Small Victories” and “God Bless” also allow drummer Dan Amati to show he can play refined and delicate, as well as thundering and determined.    

Yes, 1968 are undoubtedly still inspired by the classic rock of the late 60s/early 70’s, but we’re also drinking beers in Satan’s Dive Bar, somewhere in Seattle, with a jukebox that’s stuck on Badmotorfinger.  And some Budgie, too, based on the solid cover of that band’s “Guts” that shows up here.   

Look, I’ve tried to be serious for once, and I hope you appreciate it, reader.  “Salvation, If You Need…” is a truly magnificent piece of work.  I’ve been playing it for ages and it hasn’t aged.  I’m still discovering little delights everywhere.  It has scale and pace that other bands don’t dare trifle with.  A contender for Album of the Year, so long as I can get hold of the imminent vinyl release.

Now, who wants to hear about the time Ozzy, Belinda Carlisle and me gate-crashed Venom’s Satanic picnic?

I lied about not drinking, by the way.     

You can find 1968 on Bandcamp, and also follow their social media adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This Platinum Al review has been produced with the aid of Ever Metal.       

Spelljammer – Album Review

Spelljammer – Abyssal Trip

RidingEasyRecords (UsThem Group, Palmer Turner Overdrive)

Release date: 26/02/2021

Running time: 44 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

A slow build of distortion, punctuated by air raid sirens, heralds the onslaught of “Bellweather”, the first track on the latest Spelljammer opus.  These guys are in no rush.  Instead, the listener sinks slowly into the mire, as first guitars and bass, then drums, stealthily enter.  Over the course of six plus minutes, the track builds beautifully, setting the style for the album to follow. 

Spelljammer are from Stockholm, Sweden – and comprise Niklas Olsson (bass and vocals); Robert Sörling (guitar) and Jonatan Rimsbo (drums).  It’s been five long years since their last album, but now they’re back with a huge, ponderous collection of sludgy, doom laden music.

Second track, “Lake”, follows the hypnotic incline of the opener with a brutal riff and throaty vocals, before descending into a medium paced headbanger.  This track nicely encapsulates the contrasts between heavy, thunderous ferociousness and trancelike wonderment.

The band composed these songs in the seclusion of a remote house in the country.  The various shifting sections of the songs obviously reflect that concentrated effort, with a perfect ebb and flow.  Sections wind intricately between the monstrous and the calm. 

“Among the Holy” starts with a creeping pace before erupting into the album’s biggest rocker.  The title track opens with a sample from some obscure horror movie, and I need to know which!  After that, it’s crawling doom which picks up speed a little in a Sabbathy manner – complete with distorted vocals.

Talking of Sabbath, “Peregrin” feels like one of those Tony Iommi instrumentals on “Master of Reality”.  It’s actually quite wonderful.  Finally, “Silent Rift” is over ten minutes of all that’s gone before, ramped up even higher.  The pace is slow, there’s no haste, Spelljammer take their time and let the music grow and breathe.

The listener will also need to take their time and truly absorb this album.  Stick on your ear goggles, turn the lights down low and bask in the inventiveness.  “Abyssal Trip” is a record that’s been carefully composed and nurtured.  The enjoyment here is in the journey and all its interwoven elements.      

As we’re talking of jam, I’m reminded of an episode with my old Black Sabbath mates.  We were at legendary Rockfield studios in Wales, and following a late night in the studio and an even later nights boozing, the band were relaxing on the lawns on a gorgeous summer day.  Bill fell asleep on the grass, and Ozzy decided to take the remains of the strawberry jam from breakfast and smear it all over Bill’s beard.  Sure enough, ten minutes later, Bill woke with a scream – brushing wasps from his face.  He jumped up and ran to a nearby pond, jumping in face first.  When he emerged, Bill looked like a Sasquatch.  He spent days rubbing ointment on his face and was finding dead insects in his beard for ages.   

Seek out more Spelljammer info on Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.

RidingEasy Records are also on the web, Bandcamp, Facebook and TubeYou.

This review was brought to you by Platinum Al in association with Ever Metal.