Toyah – Album Review

Toyah – Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! (2021 Remaster)

Cherry Red Records

Release date: 13/05/2022

Running time: 61 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

Now, your first question may well be: “How did Platinum Al manage to slip a Toyah review onto a Rock/Metal website?”  Well, dear reader, let me tell you a story.  The first time I ever saw Toyah live was at a local club, where the dynamic lady herself was backed by the mighty Girlschool.  All of these fearsome females put on an explosive show, comprising of ultra-rocked-up originals from both artists and classic rock covers.  So yes, Toyah is more rock’n’roll than you (or I) will ever be.

To be fair, despite her pop pedigree, Toyah Willcox has always been more Bowie than Kylie.  And on this reissue of the 1980 live album, Cherry Red have presented us with a vibrant – even, dare I say it, rocking – bunch of post punk songs that show Toyah and her band in full flight.  The expanded deluxe CD set is packaged with a DVD featuring a contemporary documentary.  For this review though, we’re focussing purely on the music.

Happily, the production is top notch.  Remastered by Nick Watson from the original master tapes, the sound is formidable.  The instruments come through crisp and clear, and the vocals are excellent, as shown on ‘Victims of the Riddle’ where keyboards maintain a steady melody while lead guitar erupts with energy.  Likewise, bass and drums shine on ‘Love Me’ – it’s particularly impressive considering we’re dealing with a 40-year-old live album.

Highlights on “Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!” include ‘Bird in Flight’, ‘Danced’ (which reminded me of the Skids) and the occult war chant of ‘Ieya’.  Never truly dark enough to be goth, the songs here are more “Scary Monsters” with a generous helping of Hawkwind space rock, especially on ‘Race Through Space’.

Through it all, Toyah’s one-of-a-kind voice soars.  Toyah has never stopped writing and performing music, acting, presenting and so on; these days she’s famous for her lockdown YouTube videos performing kitchen-based rock covers with husband, King Crimson legend, Robert Fripp.  It’s great to hear “Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!” remastered and in pristine condition.  Even speaking as a vinyl purist, it looks like my ancient vinyl copy has had its day.

Check out Toyah on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or her own website thingy.

You can also investigate the many wonders offered by Cherry Red Records on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bandcamp and their own webalicious site.

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

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.

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.

The Gates of Slumber – Album Review

The Gates of Slumber – Live at Tempe Arizona

Self-Released (Against PR)

Release date: 28/02/2020

Running time: 37 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

Right then, who’s up for some big, fat riffs played at a crawling, slow pace?  You know I am.  Never more ready.  So let’s plunge in and have a listen of this live opus from The Gates of Slumber!  I can promise you that TGOS not only have one of the best band names ever invented – they also do magnificently heavy, Sabbath influenced doom.

This gig was recorded live at the Clubhouse, in Tempe, Arizona – back in 2011, supporting the mighty Orange Goblin.  You can almost feel the heat and smell the beer at the venue on this recording.

Starting out with “Bastards Born”, the riff is slow and menacing, with mournful vocals.  Second track “Ice Worm” ups the tempo a little, with a chugging groove.  The highlight of the album is possibly the gloomy “Day of Farwell”, which is allowed to breathe and sprawl, featuring some spellbinding guitar.  “Coven of Cain” rocks out, before the band slow down to a monolithic pace for “The Wretch”.  Moving those stones from South Wales to Salisbury to create Stonehenge was probably faster.  Finally, the band are at their most Sabbath with the crunching “The Jury”.

Audience reaction is very low in the mix, and the sound is very clear, with no studio or soundboard trickery.  What the listener is left with is a very honest representation of Gates of Slumber – those guitars and drums are free to go straight for the jugular.  It might not be the sort of album that will blow the mind of the casual listener, but for anyone who’s schooled in the melancholy beauty of Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, this is a short but sweet treat.

Will that do for the review, guys?  I’m knackered myself after last night.  I wasn’t partying with Ozzy and Slash again, honest.  I was up all night with Brian May, going on about his bloody astronomy.  “Really Brian?  That is fascinating.  You don’t say?  Yawn.”  Didn’t get a wink of sleep.

You can check out The Gates of Slumber on Bandcamp, Spotify and YouTube.

Also, witness their social media mastery on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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

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.

Imperial State Electric – Anywhere Loud album review

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

Imperial State Electric – Anywhere Loud

Psychout Records

Release date: 16/02/2018

Running Time:

Review by: Alun Jones

7/10

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

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

Thanks to me.

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

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

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

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

Visit the Ever Metal website here.