Sergeant Thunderhoof – Album Review

Sergeant Thunderhoof – This Sceptred Veil

Pale Wizard Records

Release date: 03/06/2022

Running time: 69 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

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.   

Check out Sergeant Thunderhoof on Facebook, Bandcamp and Instagram.

You can find Pale Wizard Records on Facebook, Bandcamp and their interwebs page.

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

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock & Metal Albums of 2022

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.

Brant Bjork Facebook!

9. Captain Caravan/Kaiser – “Turned to Stone – Chapter 6”

Fantastic split album from Captain Caravan and Kaiser, which crept up on my unexpectedly and quickly became a favourite.

Captain Caravan Facebook! Kaiser Facebook!

8. Earthless – “Night Parade of One Hundred Demons”

Outrageously good album created by amazing musicians, Earthless are nutritious energy for the ears, mind and soul.

Earthless Facebook!

7. Stoner – “Totally…”

It’s Brant Bjork again, here with Nick Oliveri in their stoner rock super group.  Does exactly what you’d expect, and features one of the best album covers I’ve seen in a long while.

Stoner Facebook!

6. MWWB – “The Harvest”

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard don’t disappoint with this heavy yet progressive album, brimming with new ideas and sci-fi experimentation.

MWWB Facebook!

5. Nebula – “Transmissions from Mother Ship Earth”

Glorious heavy psych rock from Nebula, showcasing their savage riffs and outer space vibes.

Nebula Facebook!

4. Battalions – “King of a Dead World”

A monster of an album!  Heavy, sludgy – that’s all you need to know.  Brutal and brilliant!  They’re from Hull!

Battalions Facebook!

3. Crobot – “Feel This”

The most exciting hard rock band around deliver another energetic slab of groovy rock’n’roll.  Unmissable!

Crobot Website!

2. Clutch – “Sunrise on Slaughter Beach”

It’s Clutch, what can you say?  Clutch are legendary and they always come up with the goods.  This latest feels slightly darker than previous releases, but has all the required Clutch-ness necessary.

Clutch Website!

  1. Sergeant Thunderhoof – “This Sceptred Veil”

A worthy triumph at the top of my 2022 chart.  An album that has it all: heavy riffs, powerful playing, melody and invention – it’s an experience that the listener can truly immerse themselves in.

Sergeant Thunderhoof Facebook!

All awesome albums and I recommend you check them out immediately. And what a winner! You can read my review of the Sergeant Thunderhoof album on Ever Metal, and I’ll re-post it here soon.

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!

Scarecrow – Album Review

Scarecrow – Scarecrow II

Wise Blood Records

Release date: 22/10/2021

Running Time: 44 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

You could say I was a little confused when I first heard “The Endless Ocean Overture”, the opening track on this second album from Scarecrow.  I know the clue’s in the song title, but this really is a big, full on orchestral piece – complete with moody storm sounds and crashing waves.  I thought the Ever Metal Delivery Monkey had sent me one of those symphonic metal monstrosities by mistake – there are NO GUITARS here.  At least not on the first song.

Not that it’s a bad track – it’s actually very atmospheric and very bloody clever.  Just a bit of a surprise, that’s all.

Scarecrow are a Russian doom rock band, taking their inspirations from the classic seventies masters like Sabbath and Zeppelin.  When track 2 – “Blizzard” – kicked in, I realised my mistake.  Yes, here we have it: blues based heavy rock that could have easily been produced in 1973.  Groovy riffs, batteringly good drum breaks, high pitched wailing vocals – all the tropes are present and correct.  “Blizzard” has all these, plus relentless changes of pace which means the listener can bang their head or swing their bell bottom jeans all in one song.

“Magic Flower” has a slower, doom blues sound with some mouth organ for additional retro stylings.  There’s even a folky mid-section with some Plant-esque banshee screams.  Up next is “Spirit Seducer”, a rocker that’s more of the Iommi sound already hinted at, and some pounding rhythm. 

Scarecrow are nothing if not ambitious.  “The Moors” is a hell of an epic: warm acoustic guitar intro; doom laden heavy riff, ethereal keys: all the ingredients are here, and happily we reach another Sabbath like peak in the middle of the song.  Some of the orchestral feel of the opener makes a well-judged return here, adding to the bombast. 

When I heard the intro to “The Golden Times”, it was easy to make the comparison to Sabbath tracks like “Orchid” and “Fluff”.  This song flows along serenely, with the vocals making me think I’d started listening to a new Wolfmother recording.  Another multi part piece, best to just mellow out and enjoy the ride – till the increasing pace runs off with your ears.

The range and scope of this album really is very impressive.  “Scarecrow II” is an accurate love letter to the giants of yester year, whilst firmly placing the bands feet alongside contemporaries like Uncle Acid and Graveyard.  Scarecrow has delivered an album that features new spins on the old ideas co-existing with brave, surprising augmentations.     

Check out Scarecrow on Bandcamp and Facebook.

You can find Wise Blood Records on Bandcamp, Facebook and the interweb.

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

TOOM – EP Review

TOOM – Behold the Basilisk EP

APF Records (For The Lost PR)

Release date: 01/10/2021

Running Time: 22 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

Let’s start with a history lesson.  The “Behold the Basilisk” EP by TOOM is a dug-up time capsule, having been recorded in January 2010.  The band themselves were formed in 2007, and split not long after this recording.  What could have been a long-lost curio, to be spoken of fondly by the few who had inside knowledge, has now been reanimated and set loose by APF records.

What we have is an EP consisting of four stoner doom tracks from an extinct trio.  Like those ape dudes at the start of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Teddy-James Driscoll, Jus Smith and Jack Newnham have been enlightened by a big, Black Sabbath obelisk – the legacy of which has been excavated for our enjoyment.

“Snake Chalmers” opens things up, with an acoustic guitar intro that’s highly reminiscent of those mellow Iommi passages from “Master of Reality”.  It’s a beautiful, yet deceptive beginning to a collection of crushingly heavy music.   Play it for Granny, she’ll be surprised as fuck when the lethal riffage of “There’s Nothing Cute About Cobras” revs up and creates utter destruction.  Growling vocals and gruesome, pounding guitars are where we’re at here.

Similar approach for “Mandark”, though this track throws in some variations in riffs and tempo, with a short, but killer “quieter” section.  Here and on the final song, “Decapodiformes”, there’s a hint of influence from the likes of Sleep, High On Fire and Mastodon – with relentless, mighty riffs powering through.       

Gone but not forgotten, then: it’s introducing and welcoming back TOOM on this impressive EP.  Makes you wonder what might have been…

Check out APF Records on Bandcamp and online.

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

Pentre Fest 2022

Pentre Fest 2022

McLean’s Pub, Pentre, Deeside

25th and 26th February, 2022

February 2022 saw the long awaited return of Pentre Fest. After falling victim to the pandemic, this local metal festival was revived and came back harder than ever. Two days of metal/rock, hosted in McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales – I was over joyed to revisit this fantastic event.

Friday evening was headlined by Raised by Owls, with appearances by In Depths and my old mates Ryuko, amongst others (see the reviews below).

Saturday saw the largest audience ever at Pentre Fest, not surprising considering the legendary Blaze Bayley was headlining. Add performances from Absolva, Cadence Noir, Reaper, plus many more and it all equalled a spectacular day’s entertainment.

Despite a few of the advertised artists having to drop off due to the plague, there was a legit feast of music of various hard rockin’ types, spread over two stages. It was so good to be back: a feeling everyone seemed to share, bands and gig goers alike.

You can read the full review on the Ever Metal website here. Just for the hell of it, here are the bands that I reviewed personally.

Friday 25/02/2022

Navnlos

The first band I caught this year was Navnlos, so that was a pretty good start!  These guys deliver some heavy groove metal, powerful and relentless.  I also detected something of a nasty grunge element, like Tad jamming Pantera songs in Venom’s garage.  Navnlos feature evil riffs, primal rhythms and ogre like vocals – it’s the sound of a rampaging army of berserkers storming your tea party.  Bloody great way to kick things off!  

Hellfire Devilles

Some may have wondered how a psychobilly band would go down at a metal festival.  Well, turns out that Hellfire Devilles fitted in snugger than Tommy Lee’s underpants.  A raucous, rock’n’roll three-piece trading in high energy, foot on the gas music – these guys wrought crazy voodoo all over the outside stage.  Thumping drums, frantic guitar and slapping upright bass – along with monster movie lyrics – the set was an absolute joy.   This was freaky tiki, cocktail chaos a go-go: Killerbilly has arrived!  Do not miss Hellfire Devilles if you get chance to see them.  Main stage next time, please.

Saturday 26/02/2022

Bad Earth

Although happily installed as Pentre Fest regulars, Bad Earth have had anything but a comfortable couple of years.  With the band reduced to just founder member Geordie at one point, the addition of new members Karl and Ben has reinvigorated this band beyond belief.  Big, fast, dirty, non-stop biker rock that would make my old mate Lemmy very proud indeed, Bad Earth played brilliantly and performed a highlight set.  The term “power trio” does not do justice here: more like “annihilation trio”.  I wore my Bad Earth t-shirt ‘cos I’m a fanboy, you can fuck objective journalism sky high.

Wrath of Man

My first experience of these guys and they were intense, with a capital “fucking hell mate, who just punched my teeth out?”.  Originally slated to appear earlier, Wrath of Man were delayed due to a horde of Visigoths on the A55 (Bad Earth moved their own set to accommodate).  The Wrath encapsulate a steaming metal cauldron of brutal riff and thrashy ferocity, topped with growling vocals that suddenly bloom into melodically sung choruses.  Uncompromising, surprising and you should check them out, like now.

Master Charger

RIFF OVERLOAD!  Quick, pals – jump on Al’s Master Charger fun bus, we’re starting a club for MC fanboys and I’ve saved you all a seat!  I’d listened to Master Charger before, but never seen them live – and oh, what beauty I did behold.  Sludgier than a dirty bath, doomier than the Goat of Mendes, we sold our souls for Master Charger and they gave us a blinding set of fuzzy, scuzzy rock.  Seriously supreme, this trio destroyed all before them – afterward, I destroyed their merch table because yes, I bought bloody everything!  I’m not pissing about, Master Charger were AMAZING.

And that’s it. More soon, I hope. As always, major respect to Fozzy, Beany and crew for making this happen. Please check out the bands above and share the love.

Catch up with news at the following pages: N.E.W. Metal Productions, Goodfor Audio, McLeans Pentre.

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.

1968 – Album Review

1968 – Salvation, If You Need…

Self-released & No Profit Recordings

Release date: 20/04/2021

Running time: 44 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

For this review of “Salvation, If You Need…”, the second album from UK stoner rock titans 1968, I promise that there will be no messing about, no silly stories, no nonsense whatsoever.  I’m not even drinking.  Rather, I will endeavour to write a serious review that treats this album with the respect it deserves.  Not enough respect to get the article written on schedule, mind; but hey – I never said I was perfect.

Anyone familiar with 1968 from their previous efforts will not be disappointed to learn that the band’s strengths are in full flow here.  Thankfully, they’ve also pushed boundaries and explored their psychedelic tendencies further than ever before.  Witness opening track “Railroad Boogie”, which teases a funky Blaxploitation groove before unleashing the glorious big riff sound that we expect.

Comparing 1968 to Kyuss is far too obvious and lazy.  Jimi Ray’s voice has some of that gruff John Garcia sound (with a little later-period TSOL vocalist Joe Wood), though his vocals have matured to a sincere, soulful timbre.  See also, guitarist Sam Orr: schooled in Sabbath riffology and Lizzy attitude, here his Hendrix aspirations are allowed to fly unrestrained.  Magnificent washes of sound cascade and add colour everywhere, without being obtrusive.

“Blackwing” is the highlight for me: a refrain that’ll slip into your ears and lodge there.  It’s pointless trying to remove it.  Whether happy accident or hard slog, this is an epic riff.  “Eastern Wind” follows a similar path, but offers enough of its own controlled chaos to stand on its own two feet. 

Tom Richards’ bass warms up “Here It Lies” and expertly keeps the vibe dialled on a grungy, early Soundgarden pace.  The raw, unrefined blues of “Small Victories” and “God Bless” also allow drummer Dan Amati to show he can play refined and delicate, as well as thundering and determined.    

Yes, 1968 are undoubtedly still inspired by the classic rock of the late 60s/early 70’s, but we’re also drinking beers in Satan’s Dive Bar, somewhere in Seattle, with a jukebox that’s stuck on Badmotorfinger.  And some Budgie, too, based on the solid cover of that band’s “Guts” that shows up here.   

Look, I’ve tried to be serious for once, and I hope you appreciate it, reader.  “Salvation, If You Need…” is a truly magnificent piece of work.  I’ve been playing it for ages and it hasn’t aged.  I’m still discovering little delights everywhere.  It has scale and pace that other bands don’t dare trifle with.  A contender for Album of the Year, so long as I can get hold of the imminent vinyl release.

Now, who wants to hear about the time Ozzy, Belinda Carlisle and me gate-crashed Venom’s Satanic picnic?

I lied about not drinking, by the way.     

You can find 1968 on Bandcamp, and also follow their social media adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This Platinum Al review has been produced with the aid of Ever Metal.       

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.