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.

Here Lies Man – Album Review

Here Lies Man – Ritual Divination

RidingEasy Records (Us/Them Group)

Release date: 22/01/2021

Running time: 61 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

OK: we have something very interesting here.  Something quite special.  Apparently, this is the fourth album from Here Lies Man, so I’ve got some catching up to do.  The bands unique selling point is their amalgamation of Black Sabbath with Afrobeat, and it’s a refreshing interpretation of a genre that continues to morph and bewitch the listener.

On this release, founding members Marcos Garcia (vocals/guitar) and Geoff Mann (drums) are joined by Doug Organ on keyboards and JP Maramba on bass.  Here Lies Man devoutly worship the riff in full-on Iommi style, but they’re piloting their space vessel on an exploratory course into previously uncharted galaxies.

Yes, there are chunky, heavy guitar riffs galore – but with a stroke of mad scientist genius the rhythms power the engine with a new force.  Tracks like “I Wander”, “Night Comes” and album highlight “Can’t Kill It” don’t just rock, they don’t just groove: there’s something – dare I say it – danceable in the songs on Ritual Divination.  So much so, that I might just have to go and shake my not inconsiderable booty right now.

There.  That’s better.  Just had to groove on out there, people – but I’m back now.  Here Lies Man have crafted something very infectious.  Snippets of 70s style heavy rock (“Collector of Vanities”), dizzy space rock (“In These Dreams”) and incessant beats (everywhere) create something that’s heavy AND fun.

If I have one criticism, it’s that the album feels slightly too long.  All this inventiveness is sometimes hard to keep up with, despite its addictive nature.  Over time, however, I’m guessing the additional length of the recording will probably deliver greater rewards.   

Ritual Divination by Here Lies Man: boldly rocking where no one has rocked before.

My old mates in Black Sabbath used to enjoy going off in random directions, too (usually because of the, er… substances).  One time, Bill Ward decided to play yet another prank on diminutive vocal god Ronnie James Dio by taking an axe to all the furniture in Ron’s hotel room and hacking off eight inches from the bottom of everything, to make it all smaller.  Chair legs, table legs, bed – the lot.  Moved the pictures – and the mirror on the wall – lower down by a foot, etc etc.

When Ronnie arrived, not only did he not get the joke, he really didn’t get the joke at all.  He thought it was a special room for the vertically challenged, congratulated the Hotel Manager and gave me a big cash bonus for booking him such a fabulous room.  Cheers, Bill!

Check out Here Lies Man website, on Bandcamp and Facebook.

Visit RidingEasy Records website and on Bandcamp.

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

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.

Misty Grey – Album Review

Misty Grey – Chapter II

Interstellar Smoke Records

Release date: 20 November 2020

Running time: 39 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

Can you think of a more apt genre than doom metal for the times we live in?  It’s crazy out there.  From a global pandemic, civil unrest, ecological destruction and lunatics in the most powerful seats in the world, the 21st century becomes more and more apocalyptic day by day.  Party music doesn’t seem right.  On the other hand, the retro stylings of bands like Misty Grey hark back to cosier times of the seventies and eighties when we just had nuclear destruction – and yet more lunatics in power – to contend with.

Misty Grey is not the name of a US mattress actress (don’t bother Googling it, just in case), they are in fact a four-piece doom metal band from Spain.  They deal in extremely authentic, good old fashioned heavy rock in the Black Sabbath/Pentagram/Saint Vitus vein.  We’re in thundering, enormo riff territory, and by ‘eck it’s good stuff.

Originally receiving a CD release back in 2018, “Chapter II” is now available on vinyl from Interstellar Smoke Records.  And a very welcome re-release it is, as “Chapter II” could well have been lost in an Atlantean cataclysm of some type, which would be shameful.

Deceptively pretty Spanish guitar opens the album with a laid-back space-jazz feel, before “Spellbound” erupts with Juan’s raw, grinding guitar.  The chugging riff is illustrative of what to expect from this album; it’s Iommi worship all the way (and bless Misty Grey for it).

If that first track is the first Sabbath album, “Strangers on a Train” is a missing Masters of Reality cut.  It rolls and grooves along, powered by Robin’s bass and Javi’s drums.  On the other hand, “Rebecca” is more like The Obsessed or Saint Vitus, there’s a rough, organic, yet aggressive feel to it.

The musicianship is great, the production has atmosphere and pays homage in a credible, affectionate manner to the band’s influences – without becoming a parody.  The vocals of Beatriz Castillo really help define an individual sound for Misty Grey, she is both tender and terrifying in equal, devastating measure.

I apologise to the band for my crass comparisons to the old masters.  But hey, I don’t listen to this type of music for radical innovation.  The last thing anyone wants to hear is some kind of nu-doom, with samplers and turntables.  Keep it slow, keep it weird, keep it trippy – but most of all, keep it riffy.  Heavy, repetitive and riffy.  Misty Grey do just that on “Chapter II” and it’s all kinds of awesome.  

Check out Misty Grey on: Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and YouTube.

This has been a Platinum Review for Ever Metal.

Brown Acid: the Eleventh Trip – Album Review

Various Artists – Brown Acid: The Eleventh Trip

RidingEasy Records

Release date: 31/10/2020

Running time: 33 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

One of the best things about the Brown Acid series is imagining the alternate reality where these songs, long forgotten in the mists of rock’n’roll legend, actually attained the success so many of them deserve.  A world where these long-lost bands are as equally revered as BOC, Grand Funk or the MC5.  The same world, probably, where Lemmy’s still alive, Trump never got near the White House and the last Star Wars film came out in 1983.

But maybe that’s just me.  What I do know, is that the Brown Acid series from RidingEasy Records offers up another batch of ten proto heavy rockers that have been excavated from the depths of memory and given new purpose.  Lovingly curated and nursed back to life; then unleashed upon a musical landscape that didn’t know it needed the songs, but by Jimi – we’re thankful for them.

The first track on this compilation, “Something Else” by Adam Wind, didn’t flip my switch much at first.  After a couple of plays, however, the Hendrix style guitar frenzy did the trick.  Then the marvellously named Grump rock out with “I’ll Give You Love”, reminiscent of the mighty Steppenwolf with skronky organs and scratchy guitar.

“Diamond Lady” from Larry Lynn is a fantastic punchy, psychedelic number.  Then midway through the album, we get “In Wyrd” by Renaissance Fare.  This track sounds like the Doors being particularly annoying when they’re on the wrong drugs.  Thankfully, at under 3 minutes, it avoids some of Jimbo and pals’ lengthier exasperations; it’s the only challenge on an otherwise album of rock’n’roll killers.

My highlight of the collection is “Just Can’t Say” by Day Break – a boogie influenced groover with desert rock swagger.  Debb Johnson contribute “Dancing in the Ruin”, which packs Stax style brass to great effect, and finally Crazy Jerry rounds things off with the riff-tastic “Every Girl Gets One”.

The Eleventh Trip in this series continues to surprise and entertain.  It’s a compilation that’s so solid you’d need a forklift to move it.  Dig out your flares and love beads, heat up the lava lamp – it’s party time again!

By the way, I invented the term “skronky organs” and I’m trademarking it.

Track listing:

  1. Adam Wind – Something Else
  2. Grump – I’ll Give You Love
  3. Bagshot Row – Turtle Wax Blues
  4. Larry Lynn – Diamond Lady
  5. Renaissance Fair – In Wyrd
  6. Zendik – Mom’s Apple Pie Boy
  7. Day Break – Just Can’t Say
  8. West Minist’r – I Want You
  9. Debb Johnson – Dancing in the Ruin
  10. Crazy Jerry – Every Girl Gets One

Check out RidingEasy Records on the world wide web here or on Bandcamp here.

You can also check them out on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

This review has been brought to you by Platinum Al, in association with the awesome 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.