Thursday, May 28, 2009

No Monkey Business Here

SLOUGH FEG – “Ape Uprising” CD ’09 (Cruz Del Sur, US) – I remember back when I slid the first LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG disc into my player many years back. My first thought, after being pretty battered by the twin guitar Maiden-Lizzy-Celtic-folk-metal assault was a slightly sobering one. “With as many killer riffs as they used here, they’re going to have a hard time coming up with any next time around!” Well, touche’, Mike Scalzi, as 7 albums in you’re still mining the mother lode. Right off the bat, SLOUGH FEG (Scalzi - guitar, vocals; Angelo Tringali – guitar; Adrian Maestas – bass; Harry Cantwell – drums) catch the listener off-guard. “The Hunchback Of Notre Doom” eschews the usual galloping FEG fare and pulverizes the listener into the ground for 5 minutes with pure, plundering doom. Seriously, the title is no empty threat here, as Scalzi & Tringali let loose a series of riffs that would have names like Chandler, Wartell & Franklin raising their eyebrows, capped by a stirring vocal performance from Mike S. From there, the band careens into a faster, Lizzy-ish “Overborne” before tackling one of the most ambitious works of their career, the 10+ minute title cut. Filled to the brim with one nicely-segueing riff after another, SF show what the term “epic metal” should really mean. This cut, especially, calls to mind one of my favourite bands of all time, Manilla Road, not only in song structure and blistering lead guitar but in the pipes of Mr. Scalzi who often fondly reminds me of Mark “The Shark” Shelton. From there, this 4-some rampage through 5 more varied numbers with the skill & panache of Helio Castroneves tooling his car through the turns at Indy. From the crushing “Simian Manifesto” to the lead-guitar frenzy of “Ape Outro” and on to the finish line of ‘70’s hard rock nirvana, “Nasty Hero,” this is simply what SLOUGH FEG never fails to deliver: killer, top-level guitar-drenched metal with imagination to boot. 9.0

LE FACE – “Isolation” CD ’09 (Dead Beat, US) – From Whittier, California by way of Cleveland’s Dead Beat Records comes LE FACE and their debut full-length, “Isolation.” With song titles like “Urinating Fest,” “Tylenol Killer” and “Christian Cunt,” there’s a pretty strong indication that this band has their roots in punk and it’s an accurate one. Still, the album does rise beyond the genre-typical with the jaunty melodies that pop out all through the bouncing, pogo-ing rhythms that abound. The slightly upper-range vocals, while a bit off-putting at first, settle in with me after the first few songs and, again, act as a signpost to mark “Isolation” as something that stands out from the crowd. For a band I knew nothing about prior to injecting this disc into the Realm-o-Matic, LE FACE have gotten my attention. I’m curious to hear more from these guys and I’ll bet they’d be a blast live. 7.0

CRAICMORE – “From Hill & Hoolie” CD ’09 (Private, US) – Been a long time since I got a really good Celtic folk CD. Been a long time since I did the stroll through a Celtic festival, though, so I guess it’s good that California’s CRAICMORE sent me this, their 3rd CD. In all honesty, it doesn’t surprise me that this band has delivered a sterling piece of work. Their last disc, “Too Bad For Heaven, Too Good For Hell…” sparked a good review on these pages a few years ago. Still, I think “From Hill…” is even better. Bolstered by a shimmering-yet-crystal-clear production courtesy of Grammy-nominated engineer Scott Fraser, the band’s eclectic blend of ideas comes through with a powerful punch. All you have to do is listen to the opening pair of “Rocky Road To Dublin / Butterfly / Foxhunter’s” and “Star Of Munster / Gravel Walk.” In the former, Nancy Johnston’s rich & full voice takes command right away as the multi-instruments of John MacAdams (guitar, Didjeridoo, banjo, etc.), Dave Champagne (flute, pennywhistle, great highland bagpipes, etc.) and Sean Faye-Cullen (bass & vox) lay down a simmering accompaniment. With the latter, Champagne gives a veritable clinic with whistle as he then does with the Highland pipes on “Dark Isle / Glasgow City Police.” Elsewhere, the band’s willingness to stretch out into other ethnic reaches is never as apparent as on the traditional Chinese folk song, “Crescent Moon.” There’s no question that CRAICMORE have announced “From Hill & Hoolie” that Celtic-inspired folk music is a very live and vital animal. Recommended. 8.0

LIGHTS OUT! – “Destroy / Create” CD ’09 (Dead Beat, Ger) – “Lights out, lights out, Berlin”…ok, stop Ray, you’re not Phil Mogg. This LIGHTS OUT! (complete with the exclamation point) is not a UFO song but, rather, a punk band from Germany who have released their latest effort “Destroy / Create.” They have a sound that will remind you of some classic early ‘80’s punk luminaries like Circle Jerks, Reagan Youth & Negative Approach. The fast-paced garage-y guitars, angry vocals and songs like “Contempt” and “Be Quiet And Obey” will take you back to those times, for sure. The only problem, and it’s a bit of a stout one for LIGHTS OUT! is that they often “remind” too much. There simply isn’t a ton of personality or panache there to make their stuff stand out or apart from those early punk icons. So, while this may be a decent listen when you’ve had your fill of life’s bullshit, it’s not something you’re going to remember next Tuesday. Take some more time with the songwriting next time, guys. 5.0


Chris said...

That Lights Out! CD felt like a label compilation where every now and again a good song jumps out.

raysrealm said...

Kinda like a Punk 101 instructional manual. All the elements but nothing really defining. I think they have potential but need to take more time with it.