Spelljammer – Album Review

Spelljammer – Abyssal Trip

RidingEasyRecords (UsThem Group, Palmer Turner Overdrive)

Release date: 26/02/2021

Running time: 44 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

A slow build of distortion, punctuated by air raid sirens, heralds the onslaught of “Bellweather”, the first track on the latest Spelljammer opus.  These guys are in no rush.  Instead, the listener sinks slowly into the mire, as first guitars and bass, then drums, stealthily enter.  Over the course of six plus minutes, the track builds beautifully, setting the style for the album to follow. 

Spelljammer are from Stockholm, Sweden – and comprise Niklas Olsson (bass and vocals); Robert Sörling (guitar) and Jonatan Rimsbo (drums).  It’s been five long years since their last album, but now they’re back with a huge, ponderous collection of sludgy, doom laden music.

Second track, “Lake”, follows the hypnotic incline of the opener with a brutal riff and throaty vocals, before descending into a medium paced headbanger.  This track nicely encapsulates the contrasts between heavy, thunderous ferociousness and trancelike wonderment.

The band composed these songs in the seclusion of a remote house in the country.  The various shifting sections of the songs obviously reflect that concentrated effort, with a perfect ebb and flow.  Sections wind intricately between the monstrous and the calm. 

“Among the Holy” starts with a creeping pace before erupting into the album’s biggest rocker.  The title track opens with a sample from some obscure horror movie, and I need to know which!  After that, it’s crawling doom which picks up speed a little in a Sabbathy manner – complete with distorted vocals.

Talking of Sabbath, “Peregrin” feels like one of those Tony Iommi instrumentals on “Master of Reality”.  It’s actually quite wonderful.  Finally, “Silent Rift” is over ten minutes of all that’s gone before, ramped up even higher.  The pace is slow, there’s no haste, Spelljammer take their time and let the music grow and breathe.

The listener will also need to take their time and truly absorb this album.  Stick on your ear goggles, turn the lights down low and bask in the inventiveness.  “Abyssal Trip” is a record that’s been carefully composed and nurtured.  The enjoyment here is in the journey and all its interwoven elements.      

As we’re talking of jam, I’m reminded of an episode with my old Black Sabbath mates.  We were at legendary Rockfield studios in Wales, and following a late night in the studio and an even later nights boozing, the band were relaxing on the lawns on a gorgeous summer day.  Bill fell asleep on the grass, and Ozzy decided to take the remains of the strawberry jam from breakfast and smear it all over Bill’s beard.  Sure enough, ten minutes later, Bill woke with a scream – brushing wasps from his face.  He jumped up and ran to a nearby pond, jumping in face first.  When he emerged, Bill looked like a Sasquatch.  He spent days rubbing ointment on his face and was finding dead insects in his beard for ages.   

Seek out more Spelljammer info on Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.

RidingEasy Records are also on the web, Bandcamp, Facebook and TubeYou.

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

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock & Metal Albums of 2021

Over the last year, I’ve reviewed a fair few albums for my pals at Ever Metal, and also continued on my never ending odyssey to explore new music. Old bands, new bands, from the big hitters to the up and comers. But what Rock and Metal albums were my favourites from 2021?

This list answers that question: here are the albums that I enjoyed the most from last year:

10. Stoner – Stoners Rule

9. Here Lies Man – “Ritual Divination”

8. Bloody Hammers – “Songs of Unspeakable Terror”

7. Melvins – “Working with God”

6. Acid Mammoth – “Caravan”

5. Barbarian Hermit – “One”

4. Red Fang – “Arrows”

3. Son of Boar – “Son of Boar”

2. Green Lung – “Black Harvest”

  1. 1968 – “Salvation, if you need…”

Another strong year for new music, 2021 managed to deliver that much, at least. There were plenty of other great releases from other artists, this is just my pick of the best – and it certainly wasn’t easy to narrow down to just this ten.

All of the above are superb records, and I’d strongly advise you to check them out. Read the full reviews on Ever Metal (where applicable) and also on here too, in the near future.

Let’s raise a glass to more great music in 2022 – and who knows, maybe some more gigs?!

Ungraven/Slomatics – EP Review

Ungraven/Slomatics – Split EP

Blackbow Records

Release date: 05/03/2021

Running time: 31 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

How did you spend your time during the pandemic?  Did you learn a new language or a musical instrument?  Did you get out there running, hammering marathons and getting super fit?  Or, like most of us, did you hang on there by your finger nails, just about keeping it together and escaping the monotony?  Well luckily for us, these two bands – Ungraven and Slomatics – decided to put their talents to creative use and deliver some music to keep us all sane in these bizarre times.

This is one EP, two bands and six songs in total.  First off, we have Ungraven, who despite only being formed in 2019 feature musicians of fine pedigree: Jon Davis (Conan), David Ryley (Fudge Tunnel) and Tyler Hodges (Tuskar).   “Defeat the Object”, their first offering, features a reliably sturdy riff to nod your head to.  Next track, “Onwards She Rides to a Certain Death” comes galloping out of the gates like an armour covered battle horse – it’s no nimble dressage, more like a cavalry charge into a frenzied battle.  Ungraven’s final song, “Blackened Gates of Eternity”, has a grinding intensity that has an industrial feel.

Slomatics pick up the baton and start off with the brutally heavy, atmospheric “Kaan”, which seems to move sideways rather than forwards.  Slow and hefty, I’ve seen ox bow lakes form quicker than the pace of this monster.  “Proto Hag” follows a similar style, but you’ll be glad to learn that it’s even more intense.  Slomatics have been building their reputation for some years now, and these tracks confirm their prominence.  Their final song, “Monitors” – probably my favourite on the whole EP, though I feel bad singling out one track – only pushes their reputation further.  The music is almost trancelike, with a magnetic melodic element.

This split EP is dense and compelling.  Both Ungraven and Slomatics impress with their conviction and integrity.  The only down side is that 31 minutes just isn’t enough.  This is a very enjoyable starter, but it just makes me hunger for a full plate of whatever these two immense bands can serve up.  Please sir, can I have some more?

Check out Ungraven on Facebook and Bandcamp.

You can find Slomatics on the interweb, Bandcamp, Facebook and Twitter.

Visit Blackbow Records here or on Bandcamp.

This review was presented to you by Platinum Al in association with Ever Metal.

Barbarian Hermit – Album Review

Barbarian Hermit – One (Reissue)

APF Records (For the Lost PR)

Release date: 29/01/2021

Running time: 49 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

Writing these reviews for Ever Metal isn’t easy, you know.  I’m sure I speak for the whole writing team when I say that we pour our heart and soul into all our prose.  Each of us lives with the fear of the dreaded Writer’s Block, gnawing at our bones.  So, I decided that my review of this reissue of the 2016 debut album by Barbarian Hermit, released by the mighty APF Records, would need some help. 

But who could assist with such a task?  Why none other than my old friend, Volkrugg the Decimator – barbarian warlord of Ages Long Forgotten.  Of course: no-one is better qualified!  And seeing as I’ve basically been a hermit for the last year, between us we should have it covered.

Take it away, Volkrugg…

“Greetings, people of the 21st century!  I am Volkrugg the Decimator – warlord of the Mist Realm, conqueror of the Thorspian cities, leader of the barbarian hordes of Vossk.  My good friend, Al, has begged me for my musings concerning the recorded work of Barbarian Hermit, and lo – shall I render it unto thee with vicious glee!

“From the very start, these seven songs burst forth like an army of Ionian Thrask Vandals!  They wield their war axes with vengeful power, surging down from the mountains on thundering hooves of hell.  The brief respite of sometime calmer moods offer shelter from the maelstrom of war, yet always the majesty and power of conflict lurks temptingly!

“Verily, hearing these odes, I was mindful of my fallen brothers from glorious battles past – gone but ne’er forgotten, proudly drinking and brawling in Valhalla!”

There you go, I couldn’t have said it better myself.   “One” is a great, sludgy, fuzzy celebration of relentless force and mesmerising intricacies.  Both Volkrugg, his band of berserker warriors and myself are all big fans.  You’d be a fool of mythic proportions to miss this album, and be warned – Volkrugg fed his last court jester to a tiger.  Barbarian Hermit reviewed by a barbarian and a hermit – you can’t get a more honest opinion than that.

Seek Barbarian Hermit on Bandcamp, Facebook and Twitter.

Heed the word of APF Records on the internet here, or visit them on Facebook, Bandcamp or Twitter.

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

Dayglo Mourning – Album Review

Dayglo Mourning – Dead Star

Black Doomba Records (Dewar PR)

Release date: 12/02/2021

Running time: 35 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

It was late afternoon when I woke.  Sunlight was pouring through the blinds like cheap bourbon into a cracked glass, and my mouth was as healthy as a well-worn shoe.  Still aching, I reached for a half-finished bottle of warm beer to contemplate the previous nights events.  How had I ended up in this mess again?

The culprit was there before me: all innocent now, but I knew the power that lurked inside.  A new album by a band called Dayglo Mourning was to blame.  I had spent the night lost in a haze of booze and infernal doom metal, my reverie spiralling out of control by the minute.

“Dead Star”, this work was called.  An ode to sludgy riffs, apocalyptic drums and earth-shaking riffs in the traditional, old school style.  Right up my strasse, then.

Dayglo Mourning are three barbarian bruisers from Atlanta, Georgia: Joe Mills (guitar and vocals), Jerimy McNeil (bass, vocals) and Ray Miner (drums).  Together they have created a huge, monolithic prayer to the riff, with a hint of space rock and some fine bluesy flourishes for good measure.

Songs such as the title track and “Faithful Demise” also offer up a warm groove, whilst “The Offering” has more of a blues feel.  “Bloodghast” and “Witches Ladder” feature a more direct, pummelling attack, and “Ashwhore” features some spooky, satanic choir work to up the occult ante before ushering in another hefty riff.

Thundering vocals; a great, thick guitar tone and powerful rhythm section teamwork are enhanced with a fine production that’s crisp and clear, yet doesn’t sacrifice the traditional feel.

It’s hard to find fault with “Dead Star”.  Maybe the only thing is it’s a little too short?  But then, doom is perfect for vinyl, and 35 minutes is all anyone should need. 

The album even features a fantastically lurid cover, featuring some foxy space princesses in what looks like a 1970’s Marvel comic.  It was this image that had woken me from my stupor; the bright supernatural glow piercing my eyelids as they cracked open.  Cheers, Dayglo Mourning – fancy another pint?

Check out Dayglo Mourning on Facebook, Bandcamp and Twitter.

Visit the Black Doomba Records website, or find them on Facebook and Bandcamp.

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

Son of Boar – Album Review

Son of Boar – Son of Boar

Stoned Rocka Records

Release date: 02/04/2021

Running time: 32 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

Well, here we are then.  The debut album from Bradford based sonic butchers, Son of Boar.  And yes, I am quite excited about this release.  There are long lost civilisations existing in the South American jungle that, despite having no contact with the outside world, are aware that your pal, Platinum Al, has been desperate to hear this cacophonous compendium for some time.

So, is it any good?  Well yeah, obviously.  But just what kind of good I shall reveal.

There are five tracks on this eponymous release, across which Son of Boar attempt to cover as much ground as possible.  Yes, this is Stoner Doom – it is heavy, it has groove, it has a windswept musical vista that is both fierce and welcoming. 

I’ve already reviewed first track, “Stoned Wail”, when it was released as a single a while ago.  This mix is punchier though, and still satisfying regardless of any familiarity.  The calm wash of ocean waves accompanies a benign introduction; until, just over two minutes in, the full electric muscle of the band is released.  SOB hit their groove and plough relentlessly on, whilst vocalist Luke roars about some sweet girl called Mary.  I don’t know who Mary is, but she seems like a nice, compassionate lady.

The slow sludge of song number one is contrasted by “All in Your Head”, where SOB pick up the pace and gallop home with a Kyuss covering Maiden flourish.  Great rhythm work from Gaz (bass) and Luke D (drums).  “Satanic Panic” then devolves brilliantly into the sort of the Corrosion of Conformity style Sabbath worship that enthralled James Hetfield.  Powerful, even graceful, but remorseless.

“Snakes and Daggers” reminds me of Motorhead played too slow (33rpm not 45, for the fossils out there).  Here the pace varies, with a great, almost psychedelic melodic swash emerging like a surprise visit from a long-lost drinking buddy.  Then your old pal gets stinking drunk and kicks off in the taxi rank, and you’re desperately clutching your kebab in puzzlement.  What?

You should listen to “Cities of the Deadeyed Priestess” just because it’s a genius song title.  It also has some bizarro samples that I need to investigate.  Musically, this is another brutal head crusher: meat and potatoes riffs and fine melodic hues courtesy of guitarists Lyndon and Adam.

And there you have it: five songs, one debut album.  A fine band; they’re awesome live, have the best t-shirt designs I’ve seen in donkeys and are creating a real sense of cult-like, underground authenticity that is addictive.  If I could afford to buy a copy of this album for everyone reading this review, I would.  Even that weirdo at the back. 

And Son of Boar have only just begun their journey…

Check out Son of Boar on Bandcmap, Facebook and YouTube.

You can also find them on Twitter and Instagram as: @son_of_boar

This review was brought to you by Platinum Al, in association with the mighty 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.

The Brothers Keg – Album Review

The Brothers Keg – Folklore, Myths and Legends of the Brothers Keg

APF Records

Release date: 11/09/2020

Running time: 44 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

And lo, the ancient seers have foretold of the coming of the Brothers Keg.  Anticipation building slowly, the wise masters of APF Records have foretold a fortuitous event, something that would elate the masses and bring joyous union to the land.  At least it feels that way, Old Al can’t be the only one who’s been expecting something special with this release.

The Brothers Keg are a three-piece band from London way; comprising Tom Fyfe on drums, Tom Hobson on guitar and vocals and Paul Rosser on bass/vocals.  Together, their music is colossal stoner/doom with a huge sound, massive ambition, and a fine angle on self-mythologising.  The result is an album so epic, so over the top and downright fun – that the Brothers deserve every ounce of assured swagger that they no doubt possess.

Tom Hobson himself describes the sound as “HP Lovecraft meets Queen’s Flash Gordon listening to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds at the wrong speed smoking a medieval spliff dipped in poppers.” That’s this review written really – do I need to sell this any harder to you?  

If you need more persuasion, imagine a cult sci-fi fantasy B-movie soundtrack featuring spoken word narration and bludgeoning riffs, and you’re halfway there.  Tracks like “Moorsmen” and “The Army of the Thirsty Blade Approaches” are skull splittingly mighty, generating a genuine feeling of excitement.

“No Earthly Form” and “Brahman” have it all: heavy guitar and pounding rhythm; countered with atmospheric psychedelia that the listener can absorb like a movie.  “Brahman” is nearly 13 minutes of music that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome: from meditative chanting, a killer stoner riff, and washes of acid-soaked guitars creating a spacious landscape.

The narration adds to the band’s mystique without being cheesy or silly.  Yes, it’s all ridiculously good fun – but the sheer weight of musical invention adds up to something exceptional.  Add in some glorious cover artwork (that looks like a cyborg He-Man pursued by a demented Skeletor) and “Folklore, Myths and Legends of the Brothers Keg” possesses an undeniable charisma.  I want the vinyl, the t-shirt, the poster – I want everything.  Hell, I want Brothers Keg action figures (with weapons and musical accessories, features small parts, ages 3 and up) and I want them NOW!

Another contender for album of the year?  You betcha.

Of course, the Brothers Keg aren’t the only famous brothers in rock.  Those crazy Van Halen boys are two of my favourites – oh, I used to have some wild times with them.  Like the time they pulled the thread out of the crotch of David Lee Roth’s pants, so when he performed one of his patented scissor jumps – the pants split and Diamond Dave’s family jewels were revealed for all.  You didn’t need to be in the front row to see it everything, I can tell you.

Dave had his revenge at a later gig, though.  Backstage, he switched out the blue M&Ms in a complimentary dish for laxative pills; Eddie’s tight white trousers were not a pleasant site at all that night.  Now you know why their rider has always stipulated the blue M&Ms are removed ever since.     

Check out The Brothers Keg on Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.

And have a look at APF records website while you’re at it.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t forget to visit Ever Metal for more awesome news and reviews!

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock and Metal Albums of 2020

Good riddance, 2020! Am I right, or what? Still, it’s not all bad. There were some absolutely magnificent albums released last year – some I reviewed for my buddies at Ever Metal, some I discovered through other means. Some were massive, huge hits; others were small yet mighty triumphs.

Despite a lack of live music, there was plenty to investigate music-wise. So much so that it was really difficult to compile my annual Top 10 Albums list for Ever Metal. A few giants of rock and metal, though they released highly accomplished work, were reluctantly forsaken in my search for the crème de la crop.

Here they are, in (natch) reverse order:

10. The Goners – “Good Mourning”

9. Supersuckers – “Play That Rock’n’Roll”

8. Testament – “Titans of Creation”

7. Weed Demon – “Crater Maker”

6. The Atomic Bitchwax – “Scorpio”

5. Volcanova – “Radical Waves”

4. The Brothers Keg – “Folklore, Myths and Legends of The Brothers Keg”

3. Son of Boar – “Stoned Wail”

2. Desert Storm – “Omens”

  1. AC/DC – “Power Up”

I thought that this year, one of the smaller, indie label bands was sure to get to number 1. It almost happened, but then AC/DC released the total brain melter of “Power Up”, pretty much saving 2020 in the process. Now if only Angus and Co could release an album monthly, we might be able to get through 2021.

A few shout outs for notable mentions who didn’t make the cut this year, such as Ozzy, Wino and others. Seriously can’t believe I left out “Danzig Sings Elvis”, though.

You can read my full Top 10 (plus plenty of others) on the Ever Metal website, which also features links to songs and videos. Highly recommended! The direct link is here.

All the best for 2021 – here’s hoping for more great music!

Weed Demon – Crater Maker Album Review

Weed Demon – Crater Maker

Electric Valley Records

Release date: 03/04/2020

Running time: 46 minutes

Review by: 9/10

 

“Crater Maker”, by Columbus Ohio rascals Weed Demon, begins with the warm and welcoming hiss and crackle of vinyl.  Then we’re into the first track “Atmospheric Drag”, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re in the wrong section of the record shop.  It’s a dark, folky country number that sounds like you’ve just stumbled into a saloon in a God forsaken Western town.  I was taken by surprise, but this song is both awesome and a fitting introduction to an album that isn’t afraid to wander off the obvious path.

When track two, “Birthquake” lumbers in, we’re in familiar doomy Sabbath territory.  It’s a stark contrast to the opening song, but brilliant as that was, this is what we came for.  Big, dirty riffage that’s slow yet powerful, the result is an instrumental song that relies purely on dynamics to excite and uplift.  This is bloody great stuff.

The next track, “Serpent Merchant”, is even heavier and more relentless – with growling vocals making a demonic appearance.  It all descends into a masterful, psychedelic break before the pummelling returns.  The album’s title track delivers a groove laden sludge, which again dissolves into a mellow passage at pretty much exactly the halfway mark.  Gradually becoming fuzzier, this soon explodes into a frenzied, aggressive section.

The remaining tracks offer more crunching guitars, thudding bass, booming vocals and pounding rhythms, always concentrating on the all-important doom riff.  Final track “Sporelord” wanders through several segments, before briefly fading away and returning with a quirky reggae style outro.

With four of the six songs here over the 8 minute mark, there’s a lot to explore and digest with “Crater Maker”.  Weed Demon have created a dense album that I enjoyed from the first listen and I’m still returning to weeks later.  Meandering into psychedelic space rock, groovy doom, country and ear-splitting sludge ensures “Crater Maker” is a complex release that’s worth hearing.

All this talk of weeds reminds me of a funny little escapade with my old mate Keith Moon.  Moony lived next door to his big pal Ollie Reed, who asked the loony drummer to keep an eye on his mansion while he was in Europe, filming some naff horror/arthouse nonsense.  Moon had a party, got totally blitzed and remembered at about 4am that he hadn’t mowed Ollie’s lawn for him.  Well, you can imagine the laughs we had, as Keith tried to start the ride-on petrol mower in the dark.  Without going into too much detail, a split fuel pipe and a discarded cigarette resulted in most of Reed’s garden looking like it had been napalmed.

Ollie wasn’t best pleased when he returned to see the unholy mess Keith had left him with.  But Moon just blamed Ringo Starr, who made a quick exit when drunken Ollie brought out his shotgun.  Ringo had the last laugh though, by marrying the most beautiful woman in the world.  Jammy git.

Weed Demon are on Facebook and Bandcamp, plus find them on Instagram here.

Check out Electric Valley Records here.

And go have a gander at Ever Metal, tell ’em Platinum Al sent you.