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.
What could be better: playing vinyl records in good company, with some beers in a great local pub? Sounds pretty good to me. Yes, Bring Your Own Vinyl Night was back again, in the traditional home of The Queen’s Head in Mold, North Wales.
Following both Record Store Day, and a record fair – both of which VOD Music in Mold were involved with, it has been a wax packed day anyway. So it was good to finish the day’s events off with a chance to spin some records.
So what exactly is involved with Bring Your Own Vinyl Night? It’s simple: everyone gets 15 minutes to play whatever songs they like, on quality record decks with a mixer. But it can only be vinyl format.
Here’s my playlist:
Jimmy McGriff and Groove Holmes – The Squirrel
You know those funky jazz instrumentals that the Beastie Boys did on “Check Your Head” and “Ill Communication”? I was immediately infatuated with those songs (see also their compilation “The In Sounds From Way Out!”). Research revealed that the main influences on those songs were Jimmy McGriff and Richard “Groove” Holmes, two soul jazz organ players and band leaders. I tracked down some records of each, and they are amazing. This track is from their joint album, “Giants of the Organ Come Together”. “The Squirrel” is a groovy number indeed, but you should check out the full album (and their individual recordings). Nice!
Queens of the Stone Age – Make It Wit Chu
A slinky, sexy number from the “Era Vulgaris” album by Queens of the Stone Age. This track quickly became one of my favourite QOTSA songs, though it’s from what’s probably my least favourite of their albums. Originally appearing on “Desert Sessions Volumes 9 & 10”, where it featured backing vocals by the wonderful PJ Harvey, “Make It Wit Chu” is pure class.
Clutch – The Regulator
More Clutch, ‘cos I just can’t get enough. This song, “The Regulator”, starts with a folky, bluegrass feel before it erupts into a pounding blues rocker. You can find it on the album “Blast Tyrant” and I suggest you go and track it down right now.
Devo – Gut Feeling
Ah, Devo. What can I say about Devo? We go way back, I heard their first album when I was a kid and it baffled me at first. Took a while to get it, but it was worth it. “Gut Feeling” is of course from the “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!” classic debut. It’s a sunny, dreamy song with a surf rock feel.
And that wraps it up for my set. Four great songs which I enjoyed playing, I hope others liked them too. Either way, it was a great evening catching up and talking music with a few beers.
Thanks to Halcyon Dreams and VOD for organising a superb event.
And thanks to The Queens Head – a great pub, I really enjoyed my food too!
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.
Stockholm, Sweden: sometime in the early 1990s. At this point in their career, legendary doom metal instigators Trouble were signed to Def American records and starting to shift a few extra units. The Chicago band were invited to play in Sweden by fellow pioneers Candlemass, and it’s this gig that provides the music for this double LP live extravaganza.
The release covers the never before available, complete set from that evening. Fully remastered by Erwin Hermsen at Toneshed Studio , it’s now unleashed as a double album on seductive, alluring vinyl.
Track wise, the PR blurb casts this as a “greatest hits” set, and rightly so. Of course, there’s a healthy selection from the Def American albums, such as a blistering ’Come Touch the Sky’, the brilliant ‘Memory’s Garden’ and a crushing ‘End of My Days’. Older tracks also get a fair showcase too, with ‘Psalm 9’ and ‘The Skull’, amongst others, proving how this band achieved their legendary status.
So, this live collection is a great overview of Trouble’s music at this point int time. What’s also encouraging is that the sound really is impressive, the remastering has done a fine job of polishing these tracks. Unlike many live offerings, this album has a reassuringly clear – yet still live and raw – finish. ‘The Misery Shows (Act II) is a great example – the mellower parts shimmer, though the crunch is still present when needed.
“Live in Stockholm” is indeed a good place to dive in for anyone who wants to sample Trouble’s catalogue. For the long-term fans, the performance and sound both offer a worthwhile addition to the collection. Personally, there’s nothing new, song wise, here for me – so I really can’t mark this release any higher – but a solid release nonetheless.
You might think that characters like Ozzy, Tommy Lee or Lemmy would’ve been terrible for getting me in trouble in the past, but they were all sweethearts really. The person who got me in more trouble with crazy antics than anyone was actually, believe it or not, new wave pop princess Belinda Carlisle. She was a total deviant. Scary. I can’t tell you any more because she still thinks I died of an overdose in a Tijuana brothel in 1985. And quite frankly, I’m scared of her.
All Souls/Fatso Jetson – Live from Total Annihilation
Release date: 19/08/2022
Running time: TBC
Review by: Alun Jones
Well, bloody flipping heck – this is pretty good, innit? A split album, recorded during the pandemic in L.A.’s Total Annihilation Studios, light on the production and heavy on the creative purpose. We have, for your enjoyment, a collection of songs from alt rockers All Souls and desert rock pioneers Fatso Jetson.
All Souls deliver five songs here (that’s all of Side A to the connoisseur), all of which offer a dark yet epic character. ‘Who Holds the Answer’ is a mid-tempo, infectious rocker and ‘You Can’t Win’ has a melancholy start that grows into a moody, Spaghetti Western tinged piece. The American Gothic vibe is showcased further on ‘Winds’, again utilising a sparse, melodic approach to generate a cinematic soundscape. The final two tracks, ‘Sentimental Rehash’ and ‘Timebomb’ are both faster paced and more abrasive, with robot like, post punk riffs – but both still have menace.
Side B belongs to Fatso Jetson, and their first song ‘Drifting off to Storybook Deth’ is my personal favourite of this entire recording. It welds the gloomy heaviness of the Melvins with the atmosphere of classic Soundgarden into an ominous monster of a track. ‘Monoxide Dreams’ takes a hypnotic trip off into a windswept, barren horizon. The repetitive, mesmeric ‘Dream Homes’ is a robot riff instrumental like Sabbath jamming Devo tunes, whilst ‘Long Deep Breaths’, the final track, is an exploration of dark psychedelia.
Further proving that “desert rock” has more than one style, both of the bands here are adept at taking that expected template and weaving other influences and ideas into their songs. Both dark and beautiful, All Souls and Fatso Jetson’s efforts are all fascinating. “Live from Total Annihilation” is ideal music for watching the sun fade and the night creep in.
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!
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.
2022 was a fantastic year for new music. Bands that are old favourites, and new discoveries, made my musical journey through the year a great one. Of course, reviewing albums for my compadres at Ever Metal helped in my explorations – a gig that I’m very happy and proud to continue.
I was prompted to compile this list of my Top 10 Rock and Metal albums of the year by Ever Metal. This list has already appeared on that site, but why not share it at the Virtual Hot Tub too?
So here we go, the official 2022 countdown:
10. Brant Bjork – “Bougainvillea Suite”
A laidback, trippy journey through Brant Bjork’s sixties record collection. Ideal for summer evenings.
Not long after I compiled this Top 10, I received a package in the post. It was a vinyl copy of the “This Sceptred Veil” album, which was a nice surprise. What made it even more special, was an excerpt from my Ever Metal review appearing on the hype sticker plastered to the front! I was super stoked to see this – hope my words help shift a few copies of this superb record!
Honourable mentions this year for quality releases from Ghost (should’ve been a Top !0 entry?); plus my old chums The Cult and Red Hot Chili Peppers (both continuing to release great music after all this time); amongst many others.
There’s lots of more new music to look forward to in 2023. The fun thing is, I don’t even know what some of them will be yet…
Stay tuned to Ever Metal and Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot tub for the reviews that mattter!