Monday, September 1, 2008

This Sun's Burning Strong!

THALAMUS – “Beneath A Dying Sun” CD ’08 (Grooveyard, Swe) – First off, I know someone is going to tell me that this disc says “2007” on the imprint. Yes, I know and the reason I’ve got it listed as 2008 here is that both the band and the label owner have told me that it actually became available at the very dawn of ’08, so there you are. I’ll also tell you that the very dawn of this record, the track “By The River” is a master-blaster of cacophonous proportions, calling to mind Dio-era Sabbath/Spiritual Beggars crush, coupled with a mammoth dose of organic groove that has the great works of the ‘70’s written all over it. It surely doesn’t end there, either, my friends. Check out cuts like “Can’t Live Without Your Love” & “Ride.” Guitarist/vocalist Kjell Sjostrom leads the way in laying down the business on these, both with his powerful & vibrant voice, sometimes reminiscent of Spice, and his thundering axe technique. He’s joined in the latter 6-string strangling by Jan Sederlund and together the 2 deliver all meat & no filler to the listener all the way through the final especially somber number, “Falling.” I really like, in particular, the way these 2 guys play together. One minute, they can lock together in a massive groove that reminds me, somehow all at once, of Tony Iommi and Jerry Cantrell. Then, they’ll hover together, suspended by a melodic harmony that harkens to both the works of Thin Lizzy and Trouble. THALAMUS is not trying to re-invent the wheel here, and that is so much to their credit. Too often in the world of heavy rock, bands lose focus and direction when they get all artsy & cutesy and the results lack conviction, power and balls. There is no such lack on “Beneath A Dying Sun.” THALAMUS has balls of iron and they are landing on your head with this stellar release. Buy! 9.0

MUSTASCH – “Latest Version Of The Truth” CD ’07 (Regain, Swe) – Man, this was a confusing one, visually, as it came bouncing into the ‘Realm offices somewhat belatedly. Let’s see, you’ve got a band called MUSTASCH. That already has me in the mind of maybe some kind of stoner clone. I mean, it’s like the facial hair thing, man…you know, Fu Manchu, Mustasch? Right? Hmm…Then the album cover is all black with a picture of a jet on the cover, which now has me thinking they may sound like…Jet? Well, no, but maybe Airbourne or something which, no doubt, has me pretty damn bummed because Airbourne sucks donkey balls. Then I put the disc in and the first track sounds like something that coulda been on “Back In Black.” Say what? Now I’m on the 2nd track, and I’m hearing heavy rock again, but this time with strings! I’m kinda befuddled but after a 3rd time thru, I’m grooving heavily on what these Swedish cats are doing here. Pretty polished but heavy metallic hard rock is the order of the day, and they aren’t afraid to try something different with the orchestration, experimentation with different volumes of guitars going in & out and vocals ranging from clean & melodic to near-gruff. The only thing that still doesn’t wash for me is the kinda silly dub-overview of all the album’s songs in the last, 9-minute cut but songs like “Double Nature” and “Falling Down” keep me spinning this one. 7.5

OPETH – “Watershed” CD ’08 (Roadrunne, Swe) – We seem to be on a Swedish theme here, actually bolstered by the fact that I took the family to Bengies Drive-In last night for a movie and bought a bag of Swedish Fish! The fact is, however, that while OPETH may be the most popular of the 3 Swedish bands I’ve reviewed here, in my opinion they are by far the least interesting. Unfortunately, this crew strike me on “Watershed” the same way they hit me on their plethora of albums that have gone before it: a decent band for what they do but so far over-rated and overblown as to inspire nausea through pure mediocrity. OPETH are basically a death metal band who have augmented their sound with a nod in the ‘70’s prog direction. This is ok…and there’s the rub…it’s just ok…at best. From the opening acoustic shortie of “Coil” through the quite heavy “Heir Apparent” and on to the epic length tracks to follow, there is simply precious little to hang onto here. In listening several times to this, I keep getting the feeling that something exciting will happen soon…and yet it never does. If you like OPETH’s previous works, I suppose you’ll want this, but otherwise, check out the catalog of a truly great outfit, The Gathering. Or at least grab a bag of Swedish Fish, you’ll remember it more. 4.0

LAZERWOLFS – “La Bruja” CD ’08 (Private, US) – Did you ever look at a map of the United States? Check out Montana. Not Joe, silly, the state. Pretty damn impressive, size-wise, eh? Yeah, and lil’ ol’ Rhode Island may have a denser population but I wonder if they have a band like LAZERWOLFS. See, when you’re talking LAZERWOLFS, you’re talking about a bunch that wear their commitment to heavy-ass rock on their sleeves. This is a band who dished out their last opus “Navaja Automatica” free of charge as a download after having to go through a world of hurt to get it out. They just wanted to get hell bent & deliver the damn goods. Now, having put decibels to tape once again, the results are this brain-basher called “La Bruja” and brother, it’s another killing machine. So what is this band like? Simply put, they frickin’ bring it. Uncomplicated, raw and in-your-face, somebody with a few years in the bizz might want to call this stoner rock, but to me, it’s got too many killer hooks, riffs & leads. Stuff like “The Deed Will Be Done,” “The Pugilist” and “Bloodbath” actually remind me of what might’ve happened if Leslie West was transported out of the studio where “Climbing” was being recorded & zapped into 1981. Yeah, it’s got that kinda great crossover metal/hard rawk thing going on as guitarist Jimmy Rolle blasts out the Les Paul crunch and Chris LaTray (bass) & “Bubba” Warne (drums) manage the roiling undercurrent oh so organically. Helping the album really round out nicely are that 2 of it’s strongest songs finish things up, namely the pause-giving melodies of “Jack O’ The Green” and the thundering opus “Drawing Down The Moon.” Strong mid-range vocals all around also contribute to making this an album that any heavy rockin’ fan will place near the top of their rotation and can be obtained from the band for a very nominal price. So, go support ‘em, ‘Realm Readers, what’re ya waiting for?! 9.0

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