Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Magnificent Release

REVELATION – “Release” CD ’08 (Leaf Hound, US) – As I’ve probably repeated nearly to infinity during my reviews of the last couple Against Nature records, it’s really been a very nice ride watching John Brenner & crew ascend from the ranks of middle-of-the-road doom to a trio so organic, dynamic and down-right good that they’ve not only broken the mold but smashed it into a million pieces of dust. True enough, the band’s (John – guitar, vocals, Bert Hall, Jr. – bass, Steve Branagan –drums) Against Nature format (the same line-up comprises both units) is geared toward a more heavy prog/rock sound while REVELATION is their vehicle into the world of doom metal. And yet…once again, John, Bert and Steve have raised the bar with “Release.” You see, there is no question that this record can stand quite comfortably in the so-called “doom” genre. The leaden crushing of the guitars, the deliberate pacing all point toward a world that began ages ago, perhaps, with Iommi & crew and which has revolved through a universe populated by names like Vitus, Trouble, The Obsessed and Pentagram to name only a few. Still, the absolute gorgeous album that is now playing as I write this suggests that REVELATION have taken the doom format and elevated it into something so much more panoramic and of such a wide scope as to have transcended it’s very meaning. Listen only to something like the beginning of a track deep into the running order, like “Epiphany.” Let the opening guitar figures wash over you and you can only imagine that you’ve traveled back in time to a record store in 1971 where the first Eloy album is playing as a subtle cloud of rich aroma wafts from a back room. And, truly this is only one small example as all through wonderful songs like “Anatomy Of Melancholy” and the audibly delicious “The Provenance Of Clouds” the band do far more than play. Rather, like the very best before them (Rush on “Fly By Night,” Gentle Giant on “Three Friends” or, for God’s sake, yes, Sabbath on “Vol. 4”), REVELATION paint with the firm yet caring hand of an artist who not only enjoys his or her work but is so passionate about it that it surely drips with emotion. All through the 8 songs here, Hall & Branagan explore a rhythm sound that is organic and living to the maximum, reflecting not only so-called heavy musos like Butler or Ward but also those further afield such as Jaco P or Maurice Pert. Tying it all together is John Brenner, who’s guitarwork has reached the realm of masterful. Not only are Brenner’s rhythms strikingly innovative but they also retain a visceral heaviness. His lead work, however, is simply breathtaking. A virtual chameleon of tones, he never overplays yet allows his axe to embellish upon the story being told, the reflection being made in the vocal melody. And these vocal melodies are where John has more than found his feet as a singer. I’m reminded more than once of the great VDGG vocalist Peter Hamill in John’s rich, melodic tone throughout this album. In summation, there is very little I can say about “Release” that I haven’t already effused about above. Simply speaking, this is clearly a spectacular release (pun intended) and another step on the dramatically upward curve being blazed by REVELATION / AGAINST NATURE. Buy and enjoy. 10.0

THE DAILY VOID – “Identification Code 5271-4984953784-06564” CD ’07 (Dead Beat, US) – learned about Devo from of all people, the guy who named Metallica. In case you’re confused already, underground San Francisco metal DJ Ron Quintana supposedly showed a list of names to his friend Lars Ulrich, who was looking for a moniker for his new thrashing combo. Seems Lars was taking a bit of a shine to the name “Metal Mania” but as Ron had his eye on that one for his burgeoning zine, he urged Mr. Ulrich to go with “Metallica.” Anyhoo, I became acquaintances with Quincy over the years and as it went, we’d trade copies of our zines back & forth as well as cassette tapes of prized discoveries. And it was one day that the Q man sent me a tape with the first Devo record on it (something I’d blithely ignored until then) and I was taken by their unique, mechanized, hypnotic sound. It’s such a sound that takes me back to those days when I put in this disc by THE DAILY VOID and am greeted by the short, quick and pulsing mechanicals of “You’ve Been Erased,” “Devil’s Gold Window” and “The Man W/O A Face.” Still, what makes TDV (featuring ex-members of The Functional Blackouts) stand out as something a good deal more than a DEVO clone (not that THAT would be a terrible thing, in this day & age!) is the raw punk aggression and the garage-style distorted vocals & feel that also permeates “Identificaton Code…,’ with echoes of things like The Dwarves, like weird little animals raising their heads momentarily from the aural broth. A very interesting and refreshing record. 8.0

ANNIHILATION TIME – “III: Tales Of The Ancient Age” CD ’08 (Tee Pee, US) – Kinda cool band here from the Oakland area. The basic premise is that they’re ripping through 10 songs of high-energy, obnoxious punk rawk but with the added twist of Thin Lizzy-like harmony lead guitars mixed in as well. It might seem to the unfamiliar listener that this would be a hodge-podge, but surprisingly it’s not. Yeah, by the end of the record, the “fuck” as every other word gets a little tiring, but the guitarwork and melodies that creep through the thrashing save the day. It’s cool when something seemingly incongruous works and for the most part, it does here enough to make me want to hear their next offering. 7.0

FORBIDDEN TIGERS – “Magnetic Problems” CD ’07 (Dead Beat, US) – So it’s some point back in the mid ‘80’s and I’m dodging the raindrops on a bleak night in February, bracing my face against the cold as I push through the door and into the old 9:30 Club. The dim hallway is strewn with a veritable host of malcontents, dark ghosts with heroin eyes and black hair and a slightly chemical smell that I don’t want to pause long enough to try to identify. And there, beyond it in the background, coming somewhere from the direction of yonder scuzzy nightclub is a sound. It’s the sound of rock, but of nothing known as rock to the MTV generation of the time. This includes the noise of Fender amps, rather than Marshalls, cranked to their splitting point and what must be a battered, paint-chipped Tele being slashed to an ungainly death with jagged fuzz-chords that imply a certain feral desperation. Below this unsettling palate is the insistent thump of bass & drums, each hit with the force of an unseen hooker who’s finally overcome the fear to beat her abusive pimp to death with a tire iron. The vocals overtop call their siren song of losing, then getting, then losing again and to tell you the truth, it would all be too much if there wasn’t such a deceptively wicked hook of a melody swimming underneath like coy waking up in the spring and trying to get past the thawing ice. Yup, that’s what FORBIDDEN TIGERS sounds like. Good stuff. 8.5

HAUNTED GEORGE – “Bone Hauler” CD ’06 (Dead Beat, US) – HAUNTED GEORGE should be a name familiar to RAYSREALM readers, especially over the last year when his overwhelming “Pile O’ Meat” disc scored a strong finish in this scribe’s Top 10 of 2007. While this previous disc is not quite on the level of the sonic depravation leveled by that sick pile o’ plastic, “Bone Hauler” still…um…hauls some serious ass. This mutha shows some of where the pile o’ premise for last year’s disc lay, with that simple acoustic guitar plugged into some sort of sick distortion stuff and amplified to sound like a jackalope being thrown into a power mower. GEORGE’s howling vocals, the pain-wracked voice of a man who can make John Tardy sound twee, rise like a nasty squall in the proceedings and raise tracks like “Ghoul From The Mine” to something very evil indeed. Scary stuff. 9.0

IOTA – “Tales” CD ’08 (Small Stone, US) – The stoner rock movement. Hmmm…. Man, remember how fresh and vital that was several years back? We were all singing the praises of Fu Manchu & Kyuss as new saviours and looking to exciting new acts like Datura as leaders for a new generation. Funny, over time, how bloated it became, with every other record you’d receive in the mail sporting either a ’70 Camaro on the cover or a bunch of dudes sharing a bong on the insert. The endless parade seems to just continue on, and part of the latest batch I’ve received is this one by IOTA. I have to give these guys credit in that they do pepper their low-end crush with some interesting lysergic jamming, although that does tend to get a bit yawn-inducing in the nearly 23-minute “Dimensional Orbiter.” A decent and pretty well inoffensive listen here, but if you want to hear what a truly great band has done, merely using the stoner style as a stepping-off point to greater things, check out the new Colourhaze instead. 5.5


Mark said...

Great review of the REVELATION Ray! Nicely done!

raysrealm said...

And, if you haven't seen 'em live yet doing this material, John, Bert & Steve are definitely delivering the goods!