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.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #13

Unlucky for some, eh?  Well, this thirteenth edition of Singles Night was far from unlucky for me – I had a great night.

It’s been a while since I’ve thrilled you with a blog like this.  So what is Singles Night, exactly?  Well, I’ll tell you: it’s basically me playing through a stack of 7 inch vinyl singles in the order they’re stacked in.  Like a jukebox, but not as good.

The quality of these discs can vary dramatically.  Some are classics I’ve spent a couple of quid on.  Some are charity shop finds, or even donations given to me.  As such they can range from the unfathomably cool to the stinkiest of cheese.

It’s always good fun though.  So take a dip in the Virtual Hot Tub with me, and enjoy a playlist unlike any other…

  1. The Donnas – “Who Invited You” / “Mama’s Boy”
  2. Windsor Davies & Don Estelle – “Whispering Grass” / “I Should Have Known”
  3. Elvis Presley – “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” / “”Loving You”
  4. Chas’n’Dave – “Stars Over 45” / “Harem”
  5. Neil Diamond – “Be Mine Tonight” / “Right By You”
  6. Depeche Mode – “Get the Balance Right” / “The Great Outdoors”
  7. Small Faces – “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” / “Grow Your Own”
  8. Right Said Fred – “Don’t Talk Just Kiss” / “Don’t Talk Just Kiss (Instrumental)”
  9. Bad Manners – “Lip Up Fatty” / “Night Bus to Dalston”
  10. Cyndi Lauper – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” / “Right Track Wrong Train”
  11. Feargal Sharkey – “A Good Heart” / “Anger is Holy”
  12. Bruce Willis – “Under the Boardwalk” / “Jackpot (Bruno’s Bop)”
  13. Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 –  “The Fool on the Hill” / “With a Little Help From My Friends”
  14. Pat Benatar – “Love is a Battlefield” / “Here’s My Heart”
  15. Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive” / “Anybody Wanna Party?”
  16. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” / “Girl Get a Hold of Yourself”
  17. Showaddywaddy – “Blue Moon” / “I Think I’m Really Going Out of My Mind”
  18. REO Speedwagon – “Keep On Loving You” / “Follow My Heart”
  19. Salt-N-Pepa – “Do You Want Me (Remix)” / “Do You Want Me (Original)”
  20. Carl Douglas – “Kung Fu Fighting” / “Gamblin’ Man”
  21. Judas Priest – “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” / “Exciter (Live Version)”
  22. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Sweet Dreams” / “Psycho”
  23. Iron Maiden – “Flight of Icarus” / “I’ve Got the Fire”
  24. Motorhead – “Bomber” / “Over the Top”
  25. Village People – “Y.M.C.A.” / “The Women”

My favourite of all of those records is the Donnas single – just awesome rock’n’roll.  They’re a great band, I just wish I had the album on vinyl.

Other classics from Motorhead (one of their best singles, with a beauty on the B-side); Judas Priest at their best; great Small Faces and one of the greatest singles of all time – “Kung Fu Fighting”.  If I remember, I was actually up on my feet at that point, doing a few martial arts inspired moves.  I’d been drinking, after all.

There’s a fair spread of cheese in that lot too, though you can’t go wrong with “Y.M.C.A.”, “I Will Survive” and “A Good Heart”.  Not to mention one of my childhood favourites, “Whispering Grass”.  Enjoyable songs all.

The one real stinker of the bunch was the Bruce Willis tune.  I remember liking that as a kid, ‘cos I was a fan of Moonlighting.  Listening to it again – with its terrible 80’s production and Bruce’s “adequate” voice ruining a soul classic – it’s less Die Hard than Die of Embarrassment.

Till next time!

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.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #11

It’s time for another night of spinning wax and drinking booze, as we endure another Singles Night at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!

This is all about playing through a never ending pile of old 45 rpm vinyl singles, and making the best of it.  Some of these songs are bona fide classics, some are far from it.

The only rules are: play whatever’s in the pile, in order, A side then B side.  No skipping records – however much you may want to.

Here we go:

  1. Elvis Presley – “Are You Lonesome Tonight” / “I Gotta Know”
  2. Frank Sinatra – “Love’s Been Good To Me” / “A Man Alone”
  3. Marcello Minerbi – “Zorba’s Dance” / “L’Isola Del Sole”
  4. Tom Jones – “Without Love” / “A Man Who Know Too Much”
  5. Chas & Dave – “Rabbit” / “Sideboard Song”
  6. Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World” / “Cabaret”
  7. Bobby Goldsboro – “Honey” / “Danny”
  8. Wonder Dog – “Ruff Mix” / “Living on a Farm”
  9. The Four Tops – “Back to School Again” / The Cast – “Rock-a-Hula-Luau (Summer is Coming)”
  10. Right Said Fred (+others) – “Stick It Out” / “Stick It Out (Aerobic Mix)”
  11. Procul Harum – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” / “Lime Street Blues”
  12. Neil Diamond – “Rainy Day Song” / “Be Mine Tonight”
  13. Spitting Image – “The Chicken Song” / “(I’ve Never Met) A Nice South African”
  14. Carpenters – “Yesterday Once More” / “Road Ode”
  15. Bonnie Tyler – “Holding Out For a Hero” / “Faster Than the Speed of Night”
  16. Boney M – “Ma Baker” / “Still I’m Sad”
  17. The Kinks – “Come Dancing” / “Noise”
  18. Haysi Fantyzee – “John Wayne is Big Leggy” / “The Sabres of Paradise”
  19. Depeche Mode – “People Are People” / “In Your Memory”
  20. Roxy Music – “Avalon” / “Always Unknowing”
  21. The Jam – “Just Who is the 5 O’Clock Hero” / The Great Depression”
  22. Blondie – “Dreaming” / “Sound Asleep”
  23. U2 – “Angel of Harlem” / “A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel”
  24. The Vanilla Fudge – “You Keep Me Hanging On” / “Take Me For a Little While”
  25. Robert Palmer – “Addicted to Love” / “Remember to Remember”
  26. Canned Heat – “Let’s Work Together” / “I’m Her Man”

A real eclectic selection this time, with not much of preferred rock till the end of the session.  Still some great fun songs, a few novelty hits and some easy listening master pieces there.  In my defence this time, a few of those records were given to me (and I’m stupid enough to take them).

If you’re wondering what Wonder Dog is, it’s basically a pop/disco number with a dog barking the melody.  It’s actually not as bad as it seems.

And I quite enjoyed the Four Tops song – I’ve only just found out that it’s from the film “Grease 2”, which is apparently a disaster.  As the first “Grease” film is garbage,  the sequel must be really bad.

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.