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.

Duel – Valley of Shadows Album Review

Duel – Valley of Shadows

Heavy Psych Sounds (Purple Sage PR)

Release date: 17/05/2019

Running Time: 38 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

 

Duel have been on my radar for quite a while.  Despite hearing a few tracks via the band’s social media, I’d never sat down, ear goggles locked in place, to listen to a full album.   So, I was pretty stoked to have the opportunity to review their latest album: “Valley of Shadows”, released recently by Heavy Psych Sounds.

Hailing from Austin, Texas, these four fiends are responsible for an almighty stoner doom racket; full on heavy rifferama with psychedelic and classic metal references.  In case that description alone doesn’t grab you like a graveyard ghoul on the way to an unholy shindig, their whole aesthetic is tripped out in the sort of late-night, B-movie gore that’s lurid enough to make your eyes pop.

It’s like Dracula Has Risen from the Grave soundtracked by a bunch of longhair ne’er-do-wells, and that’s just how I like it.

“Black Magic Summer” opens up the proceedings with some appropriate rain-soaked sound effects, before launching into the heavy-as-a-crypt-door attack.  There’s a brilliantly melodic middle section too, adding some light to the gloom.

Second track “Red Moon Forming” has a direct, driving pace that’s infectious and purposely concocted to inspire the raising of horns.  “Drifting Alone” has a real classic desert rock vibe, with a cool head shaker riff.

“Strike and Disappear” comes on like the vampire Western that Tarantino needs to make.  A slower, bluesy pace with a dusty feel, it’s the first taste we get of a very different – and effective – approach. It melts into a ferocious, face pummelling section that screams blood and violence.

Songs like “Tyrant on the Throne” have a classic metal, almost (gasp!) Iron Maiden feel to them.  Otherwise, the sound explores more of the head-banging, smoke induced groove of bands like Trouble and The Obsessed.

But just like the best stoner metal movers and shakers, there’s always room for some ZZ Top-style boogie, which particularly comes to the fore in the final track, “The Bleeding Heart”.

As always, my sound comparisons are only meant as genuine compliments.  Duel manage to create an album full of their own spirit and character, and it’s one hell of a fun ride.  At turns hypnotic, fist pummelling, and sombre; “Valley of the Shadows” pulls the stake out of the stoner doom corpse and brings it back to bloody life again.

The last time I actually was involved in a duel, it was a case of duelling banjos.  I was on a canoeing trip with some buddies out in the Appalachian back country.  We ran into some unsavoury redkneck types, one of whom challenged me to a banjo showdown.  Of course, I threw in some licks that my old mentor Jimi Hendrix had shown me, and the creepy little weirdo had no chance: I was victorious.

Unfortunately, the locals weren’t too happy and we had a bit of a run-in of sorts with ‘em later.  It was all fun and games really, and we were on our way home soon enough.  But I tell you: just whatever you do, don’t mention piggies to my buddy Bobby.

This review originally appeared on the Ever Metal website, please pay them a visit!

Duel are on Facebook here.

The Duel Bandcamp page is here.

Visit the Heavy Psych Sounds website here.

Heavy Psych Sounds are on Facebook here.

Heavy Psych Sounds are on Bandcamp here.

Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip – Album Review

Various Artists – Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip

Riding Easy Records

Release date: 20/04/2019

Running time: 29 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

7/10

 

Back in ’68, I believe it was, though a lot of my memory remains hazy.  It was a small London jazz club, in Chelsea I think, and Hendrix spontaneously got up to jam.  Moon was on drums, John Paul Jones picked up the bass, and Clapton and Pagey jumped up to run through a few blues numbers.  I was in the audience, somewhat refreshed, with a quality geezer who worked as a roadie for Hendrix.  His name was Ian, though everyone called him “Lemmy”.

Anyway, I might have overindulged in something or other, but it was a fantastic night.  I mean, musicians of that calibre sharing the same stage!  Incredible.  Until, that was, Jagger decided he wanted to join in on vocals.  Brian Jones decided to bring his bandmate down a peg or two, and lobbed a huge quiche at old rubber lips.  Bosh, hit him straight in the mush.  Jagger was not happy.  The next thing you know, Moon chucks his sticks at Mickey Dolenz and all hell breaks loose.

There was cake and vol-au-vents everywhere.  It took me days to clean the sausage rolls out of Pagey’s pick-ups.  But that was the sixties, you know?  All good fun.

Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip does a great job of bringing back the vibes from that time.  Compiled by Riding Easy Records, it consists of ten rare shots of proto-metal and stoner rock from the late 60s and early seventies.  These tracks are so long lost, whoever raided the tombs they were in probably received an ancient curse for disturbing them.

The songs on offer aren’t really of the sheer riff heavy variety that Black Sabbath would perfect, but if you’re interested in hearing how rock’n’roll was deep fried in LSD and pushed to the limit, there are some fine nuggets here.

The first track, “School Daze” by Attack!, has a real MC5 hell-for-leather rock’n’roll feel.  That greasy, take-no-prisoners Detroit approach serves them well.  Up next is White Rock with “Please Don’t Run Away”, a glorious fuzzed out, scuzzy rocker.  The brilliantly named Luke and the Apostles give us “Not Far Off”, featuring fabulous throaty vocals over a dynamite slab of blues rock.

There’s plenty more psychedelic, acid drenched fare that will resonate with fans of Hendrix, Cream, Mountain and even early Alice Cooper.  “I Need My Music” by the Tourists is another highlight, along with Moloch’s “Cocaine Katy”.  There’s a reassuring low-fi sound to the whole thing, with occasional faint vinyl crackles even, that gives the enterprise some charm.

Of the two covers on offer here, Inside Experience’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses” is fine but doesn’t challenge the original.  On the other hand, the wonderfully named Grump take the King’s “Heartbreak Hotel” out on a glorious, whiskey fuelled Leo Sayer and don’t hand it back till it’s puked it’s kebab up in the back of the taxi.

The tracks compiled for Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip may not change your life, but there’s plenty to enjoy.  If you’re not already a fan of rock music from this period, then think of this as a history lesson and indulge yourself.  Just be careful what you indulge yourself in, eh?

Right then, gin and tonic, anyone?

Track List

  1. Attack! – “School Daze”
  2. White Rock – “Please Don’t Run Away”
  3. River Side – “Wayfarer”
  4. Luke and the Apostles – “Not Far Off”
  5. Tourists – “I Need My Music”
  6. Bartos Brothers Band – “Gambler”
  7. Inside Experience – “Tales of Brave Ulysses”
  8. Karma – “New Mexico”
  9. Moloch – “Cocaine Katy”
  10. Grump – “Heartbreak Hotel”

 

https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/

https://ridingeasyrecords.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ridingeasyrecords

https://twitter.com/EasyRiderRecord

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfcKvfj8ei5GD2YVtLYhaoQ

https://www.instagram.com/easyriderrecord/

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #9

Come in, number 9!  Yes, it’s another night of spinning 45s and boozing – a ritual I like to call Singles Night.  Because I play 7″ singles, obviously.  There’s an ever growing stack of 45 rpm singles and I need to deal with them.  This is the latest session.

Starting off with Elvis, as is now tradition, what other wonders will we hear?

  1. Elvis Presley – “Always On My Mind” / “Separate Ways”
  2. Siouxsie & The Banshees – “Happy House” / “Drop Dead” / “Celebration”
  3. Albert King – “The Very Thought of You” / “I Get Evil”
  4. Queen – “Los Palabras De Amor (The Words of Love” / “Cool Cat”
  5. ABBA – “The Winner Takes It All” / “Elaine”
  6. Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street” / “Big Change in the Weather”
  7. Bryan Ferry – “The Price of Love” / “Shame, Shame, Shame” / “Heart On My Sleeve” / “Its Only Love”
  8. The Steve Miller Band – “Abracadabra” / “Never Say No”
  9. The Rolling Stones – “The Last Time” / “Play with Fire”
  10. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” / “Girl Get Ahold of Yourself”
  11. Donovan & Jeff Beck Group – “Barabajagal” / “Trudi”
  12. The Kyriakos – “More Greek Themes: Syneeta Platia” / “Mia Fora Monaha Ftani” / “Moraxia” / “Iliachtida”
  13. Boney M – “Rasputin” / “Never Change Lovers in the Middle of the Night”
  14. Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass – “The Lonely Bull” / “Acapulco 1922”
  15. Yardbirds – “For Your Love” / “Got to Hurry”
  16. Billie Jo Spears – “Blanket on the Ground” / “Come on Home”
  17. Tony Bennett – “(I Left My Heart) In San Francisco” / “Candy Kisses”
  18. Geordie – “She’s a Teaser” / “We’re Alright Now”
  19. Neil – “Hole in My Shoe” / “Hurdy Gurdy Mushroom Man”
  20. Talk Talk – “Life’s What You Make It” / “Life’s What You Make It (Live)”
  21. The Art of Noise featuring Duane Eddy – “Peter Gunn” / “Something Always Happens”
  22. The B-52’s – “Roam” / “Whammy Kiss (Live)” / “Dance This Mess Around (Live)”
  23. Bobby Vinton – “Blue Velvet” / “Blue on Blue”

Wow, another eclectic bunch of tracks there!  Points of particular interest include Geordie, who feature (of course) the legendary Brian Johnson in his pre-AC/DC days.  And yes, that is Neil, alias Nigel Planer, from the Young Ones.

Several genres covered there and a fine evening’s listen.  More soon!

Spacetrucker – Smooth Orbit Album Review

Spacetrucker – Smooth Orbit

Self released, Dewar PR

Release Date: 17/08/2018

Running Time: 51 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

“Have a listen to Spacetrucker!  I think you’ll like them,” came the recommendation from Rick at Ever Metal HQ.  So I did.  And he was right – the “Smooth Orbit” album is one of the most exciting listens I’ve had for a long, long time.

These psychedelic space monkeys have created a superb stoner rock classic that’s right up my space lane.   Throw in some fuzzy grunge and classic rock and Spacetrucker have achieved the almost impossible: put a huge, acid-warped grin on my ancient, grumbly mug.

First track “Sample of a Sample” warms the jets up nicely for take-off with a trippy lead and some bongos.  Yes, bongos!  Past the two-minute mark it erupts into a face-melter of a riff that had my cranium nodding like an Easter Island statue after some herbal refreshment.

Mike Owen (guitar/vocals), Rob Wagoner (bass/vocals) and Del Toro (drums) seem to be able to magically conjure up the grooves with uncanny ease.  “Meat Wagon” is another brilliant track with a pulsating, infectious riff.

In true lazy journo style (hey, I’ve had a few), Spacetrucker combine the stoner slouch of Fu Manchu and early QOTSA with classic Sabbath and Purple, mixing in some Mudhoney and Melvins fuzzy sludge on the way.  Perfect, in other words.  If any of those bands get your hyper drive firing, this is for you.

There are some Iommi-esque shorter numbers and experimental sounds that add a further dimension to the proceedings, constantly keeping the listener on their toes.  “Vanishing Point, Science of Us” has an almost Nirvana Unplugged vibe before bursting into a crushing rocker.  This is followed by another monster riff with “Pulling Teeth”.

Plus the final track, “Lost in the Sauce”, is over ten minutes long!  An extended jam floats in and builds beautifully, never rushing but enticing the listener along on every step.

This might not be the most critical review I’ve composed, but I don’t care.  “Smooth Orbit” is a triumph of an album and I love it.  The only reason it didn’t get ten out of ten is it needs more references to skateboards and 1970s muscle cars.  Other than that, I need a vinyl version, please.

If any of the above references to sub-genre labels and other bands resonates with you, I urge you do a Boba Fett and track this album down now.

All of this “space trucking” talk reminds me my days working with Deep Purple back in the early seventies.  I was working as the band’s roadie/driver when one time, in the middle of the night in the Arizona desert, we got a flat.  I left the Purps partying in the back whilst I went out in to the freezing, dusty highway to change the tire.  I was distracted for a moment, and I swear bling that I saw several lights zipping about in the sky at unbelievable speeds.  “UFOs!” I thought.

I rushed back onto the bus and dragged the band out to take look (all except Roger Glover, who was busy knitting).  Except when we got outside, the lights had vanished.  The Purps weren’t amused and blamed it on me overindulging in peyote.  Gillan was very gentlemanly about it all and even gave me a hand with the tyre.  Blackmore had a tantrum about the delay and docked me a day’s pay.  The bastard.

 

This review appeared on the Ever Metal website and is reproduced here for your enjoyment.  Click here to visit the Ever Metal website.