Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Album Reviews 10/31/07...It's Halloween

GENTLEMANS PISTOLS - "Gentlemans Pistols" CD '07 (Candlelight, Eng) - There are some labels that put out a high volume of releases and, in doing so, sometimes seem to water down the quality thereof. I get that feeling when I see the "Candlelight" imprint, at times, and therefore was a little leary when I popped in this debut disc by GENTLEMANS PISTOLS. Suffice it to say that fear lasted about as long as it took the laser to begin reading the first track, "Just A Fraction." It would be easy to say that "Gentlemans Pistols" is one of the Candlelight label's shining moments thusfar and that's because it's true, but it's also one of it's most unique. That's because rather than the more "extreme" sort of listening we've come to associate with their releases, this one has got a vibe that exudes the heavy & psych-y hard rock of the late '60's & early '70's. And while a few scribes have mentioned GP in the same breath with those Witchcraft guys, I see this 4-piece coming down moreso on the late '60's side of the decade fence. Check out tracks like "Heavy Petting" (which showed up on a 7" the band issued prior to this CD), ""Widow Maker" & "Mistress Mistrust." Man-e-daze, I'm hearing echoes of things like Morly Grey & Stone Harbor and the only thing that could complete things would be if this was a good ol' vinyl record spinning around on my Bang & Olufsen. Nice stuff & wonderful that a new band is playing like this.

BLUTCH - "Materia" CD '07 (At A Loss, Bel) - Belgium's BLUTCH does not sound anything like Maryland's Clutch. I'm very glad. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Clutch...and not just because I'm from Maryland...but the reason I'm glad is that if BLUTCH sounded like them, then they would not sound like this. "This" is "Materia," an album that originally came out on a smaller label overseas in '06. It has seen official release in the US in April of this year and in doing so, has succeeded in perforating my ear canals & drilling holes through my vertebrae, hangling my sorry carcass on a bloody meathook, eviscertating me, then telling me my mother dresses me stupid, all in the space of 40 minutes. Seriously, if you like musical mangling in the vein of Neurosis, Asbestos Death/Sleep or the very best of the best Melvins stuff this is what you should be spending your money on instead of the DVD of "Saw III." Well, you should get that too, but not until you part with a handful of bux to score this mutha. This is the kind of music that is so heavy, dark and suffocating that I can imagine it playing in the depths of the storm drains under the very worst part of the city while some unimagined ritual takes place in which people worship large, metallic machinery and the smell of things sordid & desperate drift through the acrid air. The amazing thing about this damn thing, compared to other things that have come to light recently in the manner of King Sludge is the startling memorability involved in tracks like "The Black Caped Man," the "one-two-you're dead" speed of "Smile" or the sprawling and down-right harrowing moodiness of closer "Confutatis." There's even some of the aggressive tenor of early/mid Metallica here. If terror & beauty can truly reside in juxtaposition, then they do so in the black & white digipak housing this CD. Absolutely essential.
Watch RAYSREALM for a BLUTCH interview coming in the near future!

CHOWDER - "Chowder" CD '07 (Bland Hand, US) - 2 of my kids love watching The Food Network. And, I've gotta admit, while it still hasn't bumped ESPN or the Sci Fi Channel off my favourites list, it's grown on me. Hell, I remember getting pretty damn into this Cook-Off that Bobby Flay had with some New England guy who was the "chowder meister." Clam chowder, shrimp chowder, eel chowder...ok, this isn't Forrest Gump but there was one CHOWDER the guy didn't know about & that's this one from right here in the Land Of Pleasant Living, aka Maryland. Signed to John Brenner's (a guy who knows something good when he hears it) Bland Hand label, CHOWDER are one seriously-talented 3-piece. In fact, the 5 cuts on this disc are so chock full of deep, heavy & organic power trio motion that you'll be name-checking King Crimson, Anekdoten & Ixt Adux way before you'll even realize this is...instrumental! Whether it's the riveting opener "Eyes Sown Shut" or all the way through to "Saturated," the deep, angular riffs of Josh Hart (guitar, synths) spar with the muscular rhythm section of Chad Rush (bass) & Doug Williams (drums) like a heavy-weight match from wayback. Also a fantastic band live, CHOWDER is one of the best musical meals yet from the land of the Chesapeake.

MOS GENERATOR - "Songs For Future Gods" CD '07 (Small Stone, US) - Small Stone has a pretty good habit of putting out pretty good records and that surely holds true for this new one by Washington State's MOS GENERATOR. I really liked the organic power trio feel this bunch supplied on their last record and this new one sees that vibe continuing & even more so. While a lot of bands in the so-called "stoner" neighborhood tend not to be as loosely jamming as a near-50 year old '70's guy like myself would like (well, not everybody can be Nebula or Kyuss, Ray), these 3 cats lay it down just great. Check out the way they keep the structure of numbers like "Silver Olympus" or ""Son Of Acorn Smasher" intact while still daring to go off. Like the bands of old, they know how to let the song breathe. Can it be any coincidence that the insert pic of the band is a red-white shot that reminds me for all the world of that monumental 2nd Grand Funk release? I think not.

CENTURIONS GHOST - "The Great Work" CD '07 (I Hate, Eng) - I liked CENTURIONS GHOST's previous CD but with this one, I think the English band has surpassed it. CG is an interesting band, not in that they combine elements of doom, death, thrash, heavy prog etc. Others have made a go of such things. No, the 'GHOST is very interesting in that they do it so well, with such a flow that they manage to blend all these genres into a sound that is distinctly their's, not a jarring mish-mash. Look no further than opener "The Supreme Moment" to see what I'm talking about. Great stuff and it doesn't end there, as "Bed Bound (In The House Of Doom)" and "Walking Through Walls" prove. One of the most impressive things here is the vocal work of Mark Scurr, who basically walked into the band fresh for this album and proceeds to put on a clinic of how to growl with melody, oft reminding me of a more brutal Kalle Metz (ex-Tenebre). Nice one.

EVILE - "Enter The Grave" CD '07 (Earache, Eng) - As time passed on, as time so relentlessly does, from the '90's into the 00's, "thrash" became sort of a 6-letter word. Well...thrash was always a 6 letter word, but hey, you know what I mean, it kinda went out of style, even with metallers in favour of stuff like death-doom, black, stoner and others. So glad am I, then that this 6-letter word seems to have made a comeback over the last few years (even though to the chosen few, it never really went away). An entry from England into this rejuvenation of a genre is this blistering debut from EVILE (produced by Flemming Rasmussen, no less). Sure, this quartet may be from the "other side of the pond" to us Americans but "Enter The Grave" sounds for all the world like it could've come from the SF Bay Area during those great mid-'80's. Check out the riffing extravaganza present in the shockingly titled "Thrasher" (gotta love that) and remember the days of guitarists like Holt, Peterson & Piercy lighting up the guitar necks. Or try on the sheer knife to the jugular of straight-ahead whippers like "First Blood" & "Schizophrenia." True, EVILE may never win any Pulitzer prizes for enlightening lyricism but for that dark, threatening thrash vibe, they're about to become the next 5-letter word.

FUELED BY FIRE - "Spread The Fire" CD '07 (Metal Blade, US) - While we're delving headlong into a pile of bacon-cheeseburgers (sorry, it's like 12:00 noon & I haven't eaten at all yet today...you know, took the kids to school, work, phone calls...ok, ok, I digress!) ok...headlong into the thrash metal renaissance, let's get right to the bullseye. See, the center of the target, the epicenter of the entire genre during it's heady times of the mid-to-late '80's was the San Francisco Bay Area in California. And sure enough, sure e-fucking-nough, that's where this 4 young cats have emerged from to produce a record that takes you back to the place Tony Bennett left his heart. Is this original? No. Is it trend-setting? No. Is it a barrel-load of pure, thrashing fun? YES! FUELED BY FIRE take their youthful enthusiasm & lash it to a pretty damn impressive understanding of what made places like The Stone, The Mabuhay Gardens & Ruthies tick. Witness pick-shredders like "Betrayal," "Dreams Of Terror" & (as God is my witness) "Thrash Is Back." Heck, they've even got a sense of humor as the intro "Ernest Goes To Hell" proves. For good, ol' unabashed thrash-a-holic fun, it's pretty hard to beat this spreading fire.

HIGH ON FIRE - "Death Is This Communion" CD '07 (Relapse, US) - Man, San Francisco's HIGH ON FIRE has surely come a long way. I remember the first time I caught Matt Pike & Co. live. 'Twas back in the cold depths of February '00, I think, when I saw the trio take the stage at Phantazmagoria (R.I.P.) in Wheaton, MD. There must've been a grand total of 10 people there and, even then (after buying a copy of the band's 3-song demo CD & a t-shirt from Pike himself), I realized I'd made a mistake. Well, I'd made a mistake regarding my physical health. See, I'd planted myself front & center, with no hearing protection & after about 3 songs, I knew that the 125+ dB assault from Pike's Les Paul-thru-Green combination was going to be the result of a major cochlea crunch. Still, I stood my ground & after the rest of the set, I had the feeling I had witnessed the birth of something very interesting. Yes, Pike had piloted the mighty Sleep through several key releases, including the landmark "Jerusalem/Dopesmoker," yet I got the distinct impression he was going to make a bigger mark on the metal market with H.O.F. And, he has in spades. Through what is now the band's 4th full-length release, Pike has molded & tweaked his sound, transitioning the plundering Asbestos Death/Sleep crush into a whipping cauldron of Slayer-esque proportions that sees not only speed rip into the mixture but an aggressive assault married to highly advanced riffs & leads courtesy of his 9-string axe. Blend into that stew Des Kensel's tribalistic drum cannonades & new bassist Jeff Matz's low-end attack, let Jack Endino sit at the boards & it all just works so well. From the very opener of "Fury Whip," right through the sprawling title cut and the moody intro-laden closers like "Ethereal" & "Return To Nod," this album is a treat. Any metaller, from the most casual to the deeply underground should partake of this Communion

ARSONISTS GET ALL THE GIRLS - "The Game Of Life" CD '07 (Century Media, US) - There's a good bit of this kinda tricky, crazy, bouncing-all-around "math"-type heavy stuff these days & I gotta say, I'm often left in the dust by it. I mean, I loved Watchtower and there is that band Look What I Did who came way out of left field to blow me away in 2005. Still, a lot of the Dillinger Escape Plan-type clones often hit me as a lot of show & not much substance. Thankfully, AGATG (I'm in a lazy mood right now) do a little more than try to keep up with the Joneses. I put this disc in, expecting to hop on the fast train to Yawnville by about the 4th cut, lolled to sleep by an inconsequential array of disorienting grinding chops...but.... Lo and behold, AGATG impress. With an overlay of distinctly eyebrow-raising titles like "Save The Castle Screw The Princess" & "Claiming Middle Age A Decade Early," the music here is right on. Not only can these guys play brutally on a dime, they also manage unlike their peers, to do so with more than a shred of memorability. The best recommendation I can give to this interesting debut "The Game Of Life" is that once hammered into my eardrums, I wanted to repeat the experience. Nuff said.