Firewind Album Review

Firewind – Firewind

AFM Records

Release date: 15/05/2020

Running time: 48 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

7.5/10

 

We all make mistakes.  Some of us blunder all the time, and the consequence of those slip-ups can be catastrophic.  And some of us don’t like to admit when we’re wrong.

Confession time: I volunteered to review this Firewind album because I got them mixed up with another band with “fire” in the name (or possibly a couple).  I was slightly mortified when I realised that this band weren’t what I was expecting: none of the sludgy comfort blanket that I usually wrap my ears in.

Firewind are – Zeus help me – a melodic, power metal band.  Not a corner of metal that I’m particularly well versed in, or a fan of.  I fucking hate Helloween, for a start.  And Queensryche.  And fucking Europe.  This was going to be a challenge.

Yet your old pal Al is nothing if not a trooper.  They’re (partially) Greek, which intrigued me being a huge fan of the country.  I plunged into this assignment with an open mind – and do you know what?  This isn’t bad at all.  In fact, I quite enjoyed it.

Opening track “Welcome to the Empire” begins with some fine acoustic guitar before erupting into a big, bombastic rock monster.  It is, like most of the album, totally over the top – but also loads of fist pumping fun.  This ain’t pop music.  It’s fast and powerful (see “Devour”), and while not quite as brutal as my usual preferences, packs a mighty whallop.

The musicianship is exemplary.  Guitar genius Gus G has plenty of flair, but can throw out some crushing, crunchy riffs when required: “Rising Fire” and “Space Cowboy” being a two great examples.  Fast, flashy solos ain’t my scene, but there’s plenty of chugging metal to keep me interested.

The rhythm section – Petros Christo (bass) and Jo Nunez (drums) go beyond textbook and play excellently throughout the album.  Give “Orbitual Sunrise” and “Overdrive” a go for evidence.

Vocals provided by new singer Herbie Langhans are dramatic, in a typically Teutonic fashion.  This guy is straight out of a Wagnerian epic; despite being somewhat more operatic than I’m used to, he can certainly belt it out.  On every single song.

Sorry to disappoint any readers who thought they might actually read a less than positive review from yours truly.  Firewind isn’t my usual cup of absinthe with opium chaser, but I found it very easy to appreciate.  This album is well played, well written, well produced and delivered with some love and pride – all of which manages to steer this album away from trite cliche.

Metal wearing its heart on its sleeve and with a refreshing honesty, I just couldn’t bring myself to hate Firewind.   If I can dig it, then fans of this genre will love it.

Read more like this review on the Ever Metal website.

Find out more about Firewind on their official website, Facebook and YouTube.

And you can visit AFM records here.

Son of Boar – Stoned Wail Single Review

Son of Boar – Stoned Wail

Self-released

Release date: 26/06/2020

Running time: 18 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

 

Singles don’t often get reviewed here at Ever Metal, purely because there’s so damn many of them.  They just can’t compete with the album reviews.  But rules are made to be broken, and this release from Son of Boar demanded some attention.  Having witnessed the live onslaught of this band at Pentre Fest earlier this year, Son of Boar have risen on to my personal favourites list, and I’m damn near rabid for any new material.

Waves crash as a mesmeric bass begins to chime, creating a deceptively ambient vibe.  Guitars and drums warm the sound as the band slowly build momentum.  They’re in no rush, but when the main riff kicks in, it’s worth the wait.  Luke’s vocals roar and the song rises like a leviathan from the depths.  “Stoned Wail” is 9 minutes of powerful, groove laden doom rhythms: thundering bass, churning guitars and crashing drums.  This fisherman’s tale is indeed a whopper of humungous  proportions.

With two additional live tracks (“Outlet” and the boogie influenced “The Weekend”), this is a great introductory package to a band destined for big things.  “Stoned Wail” is taken from the forthcoming debut album, which, to be honest, I’m shitting my shoes off in anticipation for.  TUSKS UP!

Get yerself on over to witness Son of Boar at Bandcamp and Facebook, or maybe YouTube if you fancy it.

Twitter and Instagram are: @son_of_boar

Randy Holden – Population II Album Review

Randy Holden – Population II

Riding Easy Records

Release date: 28/02/2020

Running time: 32 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

First of all, an important note for all readers: Randy Holden is NOT the name of a winning hand in strip poker.  I used the phrase at a recent gathering at my Rock’n’Roll Naturist Society club, and nearly got a bunch of fives from Ozzy as a thank you.  Tommy Lee was up for it though, as you can probably imagine.

Anyway, Randy Holden is actually a guitar pioneer who served some time with proto-metal giants Blue Cheer, before splitting to take the helm of his own project.  Population II was the result – a far ahead of it’s time Big Bang of doom and sludge metal.

Originally receiving a limited release in 1969, this album has earned cult status with afficionados of early heavy rock.  And it’s no surprise why; “Population II” is a huge sounding, riff driven behemoth that sounds like it simply can’t have been created in that time period.

But it was.  The era that popular culture tells us was the age of peace and love also birthed this unholy slab of heavy noise.  Randy Holden, like his previous bandmates in Blue Cheer, was happily stomping all over flower power.

Of course, “Population II” is totally over the top.  “Guitar Song” is the first track, featuring the somewhat unimaginative opening line “I love the sound of a guitar playing” – so no marks for lyrical finesse.  If you’re after poetry, this probably ain’t for you.  Instead it’s six minutes of slow, heavy driving riff-based rock that sets the tone for the album.

 “Fruit Icebergs” is an outstanding name for any song; in fact, I might steal it for a band name.  Slow like cooling lava, with a doom-laden melancholic sound –  It’s dark in a Sabbath way.  Whereas the shorter “Between Time” picks up the pace a little and borrows a chorus from “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

“Blue My Mind” is less gloomy, but certainly taps into the blues with a hint of Hendrix.  The final song, “Keeper of my Flame” is over 10 minutes of pulsating, repetitive riff wrestling that doesn’t out stay it’s welcome.  Ol’ Randy stretches for the epic here and pretty much nails it, strangling that guitar and taking the listener on a heroic journey.

Yet another history lesson for which we can thank the scholars at Riding Easy Records, Randy Holden’s “Population II” is back in circulation and worth taking time to investigate.  You’ll wonder how this was lost for so long.

Visit Riding Easy records on the interweb here.

Or on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

Don’t forget to visit Ever Metal – where this review first appeared  for all your rock and metal news.

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.

The Electric Mud – Burn the Ships Album Review

Another album review that appeared not too long ago on EVER METAL – now catching up on my site:

The Electric Mud – Burn the Ships

Self Released (Dewar PR)

Release date: 23/08/2019

Running time: 38 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

Let’s get the important stuff covered off first.  For any of you who thought this band were something to do with that lot from the seventies who sang “Tiger Feet”, you’re wrong.  The Electric Mud have very little in common with their glam rock similar-name sakes.  Of course, a professional such as myself would never make a mistake like that.

The Electric Mud hail from Fort Myers, Florida – and specialise in a making a steaming hot gumbo of stoner rock and dense, swampy blues.

“Burn the Ships” is the Electric Mud’s second album.  Through the course of seven songs, the listener travels from the sweltering everglades through time and space – as vintage sounds melt with modern.

Opening track “Call the Judge” oozes an irresistible Southern rock’n’roll groove, starting proceedings with a triumphant swagger.  Grab a beer and a whiskey chaser, you know it’s going to be a lively night in the Roadhouse.

The Electric Mud show their stoner credentials on tracks like “Priestess”, which melds inventive riffs with pace and dynamics.  “Good Monster” weaves funky, head bobbing grooves and “Reptile” lunges out of the depths, attacking like a gator whose mother’s been made into a pair of shoes.

There’s some stunning musicianship on display here; the guitars of Constantine Grim and Pete Kolter are crunchy yet nimble when required.  Tommy Scott’s bass rumbles and glides perfectly.  Pierson Whicker’s drums can smash and bang yet can be refined when necessary.  Kolter’s voice, smoky yet soulful, is an addictive asset in itself.

Songs range from rocking brawlers to heartfelt blues with awesome proficiency.  “Black Wool” and “Terrestrial Birds” showcase these slower moments really well, allowing the music to breathe and worm its way under your skin.

The variety of sound – together with the confident delivery and clever song writing – is what makes “Burn the Ships” engaging and successful.  In the best tradition of stoner rock, The Electric Mud can combine old and new, fast and smooth, dirty and graceful.  Their Southern charm, marinated in the blues, give this band their unique identity.

Although it feels maybe one song too short, “Burn the Ships” is full of character and demands repeat listens.

By the way, I used to see quite a bit of Mud – and lots of other glam rock bands – in the early seventies.  Mud used to take a paddling pool everywhere with them, to do some backstage mud wrestling.  Hence the name, you see?  Though it never worked.  Not once did they persuade lovely dance troupe Pan’s People to get involved.  Or Suzi Quatro.  It usually just ended with the band in the mud bath, drunk on Babycham and fighting with Slade.

The Electric Mud website is here.

The Electric Mud Facebook page is here; Twitter is here and Instagram is here.

Find The Electric Mud on Bandcamp here.

Sweet – Gig Review

Sweet + Novatines

Wednesday 11th December 2019

Buckley Tivoli

What could be better at this time of year than a bit of proper, 1970’s glam rock?  Sweet never had a world conquering Crimbo hit like Slade, but they did have a ton of mega singles that are totally inextricable from the days of seventies glam.  After missing the band when they played Buckley Tivoli last year, I wanted to make sure I was there this time around.

Support band The Novatines seemed like a decent hard rock proposition, however I arrived late and missed the bulk of their set.  Worthwhile checking out another time though.

Andy Scott is the only remaining member from this version of Sweet’s classic line-up.  He’s a local lad – well, Wrexham is just a few miles away – so it’s nice to see him and the band on near enough home ground.  Andy Scott is also a bona fide rock god: his guitar playing is exceptional; the trademark high pitched backing vocals are ball-squeezingly present and correct; his banter funny and his charisma epic.  He’s the real deal.

The rest of the band are a fine bunch of musicians, and together they smash out both the bubblegum pop hits and the rockier tracks.  It’s this combination of pop sensibilities and rock skills that have made Sweet inspirational for generations of music fans.

Starting off with one of my absolute favourite tracks, “Action”, it’s clear that this is going to be a night of delivering the goods.  The set features all the obvious gems: “Hellraiser”, “The Six Teens”, “Sweet F.A.”, “Wig Wam Bam” and “Little Willy” before closing with another personal fave, “Fox on the Run”.

Everything is performed brilliantly, and the audience clearly love every second.  It’s also nice to note that I’m in the younger age range at this particular gig!

Finally, the band return for an encore of “Blockbuster” and “Ballroom Blitz” – two songs that are really no surprise, but could not be left out.  No way, Jose – there’s have been a blitz at the Tivoli Ballrooms had they been omitted.

So a rare Wednesday night out at a gig for me, but well worth the effort.  Some may find Sweet too lightweight in an era that gave us Alice Cooper and Bowie; I thoroughly enjoyed it.  A solid band of fantastic musicians performing well loved (and under rated) songs.

This is one Sweet I’d like a second helping of.  I’ve definitely got a Sweet tooth.  And so on.

Helligators – Hell III Album Review

Helligators – Hell III

Sliptrick Records/Grand Sounds Promotion

Release date: 04/06/2019

Running Time: 1 hour

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

Listening to Hell III – the new Helligators release – and you can almost smell the Cajun cookin’ and moonshine brewing.  This is greasy, crazy biker rock from the southern states.  No doubt Helligators have fine-tuned their art in a roadhouse shack just off some dusty highway, the sounds of the bayou just inches away.  The heat and the trees, the swamp and the…

What?  They’re from where?  Like Rome, Florida or something?  What, actual Rome?  In Italy?  Oh.  Well ya could’a fooled me!

Yes, Helligators are from Rome, Italy – though my first listen to this album had me thinking of something far more Corrosion of Conformity in origin.  Hell III is powerful, dirty hard rock with just a hint of a stoner metal, big melodies and southern charm.  But not southern USA charm, apparently…

Anyway, this third album from the band blows the doors off with the huge, raucous rampage of “Rebellion” – a great start to the album.  It reeks of attitude and speeds out of the gates in a Motorhead fashion.

Following tracks “Here to Stay” and “Bleeding” apply the brakes slightly, but are just as crushingly relentless.  This is big chunky guitar territory, guitars courtesy of Kamo and El Santo are head bangingly infectious and also intricate when called for.

There’s a definite change of pace with the almost bluesy “Where I Belong” – but by Jupiter, the chorus is monstrous. The skilled vocals of Simone “Dude” have a versatility that keep everything together and has class enough to avoid a parmesan power ballad stench.

Helligators are certainly stretching their creativity with this album.  “The Prison (Confession Pt 1)” and “Gone (Confession Pt 2)” demonstrate an ability to develop an epic suite of music.  Meanwhile, the instrumental “Bassthard Session” also shows the rhythm section – Alex (drums) and Pinna (Bass) to full effect.

But it’s the fast, super charged rock’n’roll of total bangers like “Born Again” and “Pedal to the Metal” that are the great prize here.  Hard rock that’s loud and fun – Helligators came, saw and conquered all.

Did I tell you about the time I was in Italy with Ozzy, on tour in 81?  I took him and the band to a restaurant after the gig for some quality Italian grub.  Ozzy was off his tits and thought the spaghetti was worms, and tried to snort them.  It ended with food everywhere and Ozzy pissing up the walls.  I had a right job apologising to the manager and sorting everything out.  Ozzy – lovely bloke; absolute liability.

Helligators website is here.

Helligators YouTube site is here.

Visit Helligators on the Sliptrick Records site here.

This review originally on the Ever Metal website – don’t forget to pay them a visit!

Entombed – Clandestine Live Album Review

Entombed – Clandestine Live

Threeman Records

Release date: 17/05/2019

Running Time: 56 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

 

Live albums, as I’ve stated before, are something of an issue for me.  They should be devoured ravenously, but sometimes, like vegetable pizza, they just don’t live up to expectations.

Too often, live albums suffer with poor sound, ruining the immersive experience.  Other times, they’re just a cynical cash-in to milk fans of more money, when there’s no new product to flog.

Occasionally, a live recording will deliver the goods – and even I have to admit that this album from Entombed is pretty damn impressive.

What we have here is Entombed celebrating the 25th anniversary of their classic “Clandestine” album with a performance of the work in full, from start to finish.  Original members Nicke Andersson (drums), Uffe Cederlund (guitar) and Alex Hellid (guitar) are joined by Robert Andersson (vocals) and Edvin Aftonfalk (bass) – both from Morbus Chron.  These five musicians recreate a mighty masterpiece which is both exciting and vital.

“Clandestine” was Entombed’s second album, and followed in the footsteps of its predecessor to help breathe life into Death Metal.  With this concert performance, the sound is great – those buzzsaw guitars really attack the senses – showing the band are on top form.  Audience noise is present, but not intrusive, actually helping put the record in context nicely.

The songs are still just as savage, just as brutal – serving as a fine reminder of just how great “Clandestine” was.  Or is.  All of the tracks are meticulously recreated, but it sounds as intended – as a tribute and celebration, not a cash in.  “Left Hand Path” (from the debut album), tagged on at the end, makes the listener crave more.

Great live recordings should enable the listener to feel like they were actually there.  The performance and sound must be both representative of the studio material, yet also have the power to immerse the listener in the experience.  Entombed have succeeded in capturing a great performance and atmosphere with “Clandestine Live”.  Fans will be rabid for this; for the uninitiated it’s well worth investigating.

Still, I can only award 8 out of 10 – because as good as this is, I can’t help wishing we had new material from Entombed to gorge on.

Fun live album fact: if you play Iron Maiden’s “Live After Death” backwards, you’ll hear Bruce Dickinson rehearsing voice-overs for Lucozade adverts.  FACT!

The Entombed website is here.

You can reach Entombed on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Oh, and they’re on YouTube too, here.

Finally, don’t forget to check out Ever Metal, which is where this review first appeared.