Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rhythm Aces

OSIBISA – “Osee Yee” CD ’09 (Cadiz, Eng) – It would be one of the old days, I’m thinking. Maybe a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Those were always Ray’s experimental days back in the record store, particularly the first one I worked in, at The Alameda & Belvedere in Baltimore City. Those were our dead days. It was far from the weekend. People in the neighborhood were broke and even those who had a little scratch left after Saturday night had blown it Sunday or Monday. So, yeah, things would be empty, the stock would be straightened and the cleaning would be done. Those were the times when good ol’ Ray would venture out into the depths of the store and search out something he’d never heard before to throw on the turntable. One fine day, what happened to catch my eye as I was flipping thru the “Various O’s” was Roger Dean artwork depicting a huge bird zooming in over an African landscape. OSIBISA – self titled. I kinda mentally backspaced over the African bit and, fixated on the Dean-art, I immediately ripped it open, expecting to hear an ultimately English prog rock outfit crooning about gates, delirium and starship troopers. Instead, I heard something akin to a more rhythm-based take on early Santana. Hmm…sounded good but to be honest, it wasn’t what I’d had a hankering for that day and I filed it away, going off in search of something else.

Flash forward to a year or so ago and I was flipping thru (damn, that flipping again!) a local store and came upon a double disc of that same OSIBISA debut (1971) coupled with “Woyaya,” their 2nd (1972). My memory flashed back to that first listening experience, along with the fact that my buddy Andre’ had mentioned these guys to me a few times over the years. Hmm…(lots of “hmm-ing” too, eh?) 2 albums, from those magical years of ‘71/’72 and a decent price of $12. Let’s just say it was a nice buy. The minute “Dawn” (the opening track of “Osibisa”) hit my laser, I was hooked. Call it the wisdom of age, tastes expanding, whatever. I fell in love with the combination of deep rhythmical percussion, the strong African vocals and the scorching musicianship. I was also drawn to how these guys made me feel…they actually got this metal-minded codger up and moving! Yeah, dancing! And here’s a place where I’m asking you strictly bullet-belted bangers to take pause for a moment. When you hear the word “dance,” and I used to be this way too, your defenses go up and you run the other way, thinking “whoa!” Not too tough or manly, Ray. Well, think about this, though, guys. To me, dancing is nothing more than allowing your body to react and move to music. What then, is headbanging and air guitar than your body reacting and moving to music…simply a form of dance that’s an alternate to the traditional style. Look at Irish step dancing, slam dancing, etc. All just different forms. But, I digress…

Once again we flash forward (lot’s of flashing too, Ray, that’s kinda disturbing!) to just a couple weeks ago. Same record store, same adventurous spirit boiling thru the Ray-Man’s blood and suddenly staring right at me is a brand new OSIBISA disc called “Osee Yee,” dated 2009. At this point, although having played that aforementioned double disc a couple hundred-odd times, I had no idea that the band had produced umpteen recordings between those first 2 and this one, nor that some of the later ones had been looked on as plying quite a “commercial” sound by the band’s faithful. But for some reason, I snatched the disc up and bought it without a moment’s notice. I’m damn glad I did. As I slid the disc in my laptop and began to listen, I also began poking around the internet and found out that quite a few listeners “in the know” spoke of “Osee Yee” as a nice comeback for the band. And while it’s true that only founders Teddy Osei (vocals, flute, sax, etc.) and Mac Tontoh (Flugel horn), both originally from Ghana, remain from that first platter 38 years ago, these motherfuckers can play! You only have to hear the opening minute and a half of “Osuno” with it’s building tribal ascension and when Kari Bannerman’s scalding Santana-like guitar flies into the fray there’s no turning back. “Watusi” keeps it comin’, with it’s insistent beat like a blistering amalgam of “Abraxas,” Sheila E and Earth Wind & Fire. Elsewhere, the title cut develops into a magical sort of progressive gospel/jazz, “It’s Ok” is a hook-drenched gem worthy of Santana’s “Moonflower” or “Supernatural,” “Boyengya” delivers a goblet of gorgeous electric & acoustic guitar and closer “Saworowa” brings things home with a sparse yet-beautiful African vocal/percussion duel.

The one thing I’ve always hoped, throughout my years of doing The Realm, is that I can do something to get people to expand their musical horizons just a little bit. As I look back over time, there have been several people who have taken the extra effort to introduce me to music I may have never explored otherwise…prog, jazz, fusion, bluegrass, Celtic and others. I hope I can do the same for others and if you’ve been simply into metal and hard rock, maybe today’s the day to push those boundaries out of the way. OSIBISA is not only a great place to start but one hard train to stop. Feel The Locomotion

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Uncommon Cunning Linguists

THE LOVING TONGUE – “Shadows Of Innocence” CD ’09 (Private, Australia) – You know, words of great wisdom can sometimes be found written on the men’s room walls. Ok, and women’s room…gotta be equal and all that. But really, it’s true. I once, while taking a piss, glanced at the ceiling of the men’s room at Doo Dah’s in Fells Point, Maryland and read the following: “If a glutton is guilty of gluttony, then God is an iron.” Well, of course, we went round & round about that one, eventually coming to the conclusion that the “iron” meant that God is a practitioner of irony. Ah yes…alcohol and all it’s clarifying properties. But let’s go back to that work “irony,” anyway, and it’s adjective form, “ironic.” Personally, I find it ironic that an album like this new one from THE LOVING TONGUE is released in the same year as something as grotesquely miserable as the cow pie issued under the moniker Heaven & Hell. The reason I find it ironic is that the Heaven & Hell was built up in a manic furor of hype that would have had the listening public believe it was going to be some sort of instant classic, a hallmark of melodic doom metal that could stand as one with the Black Sabbath album of the very same title, Rainbow’s “Rising” and other such residents of the holy tabernacle. And while it ended up being anything but (even though the horde of Sab apologists were there to defend it’s flaccid contents), this lil’ ol’ band from Australia has put out a record that Messrs. Iommi, Dio, Butler & Appice ought well be schooled by.

See, THE LOVING TONGUE is a 3-piece unit from Down Under and with “Shadows Of Innocence,” they’ve not only produced the best entry in their 4 album stint thusfar but a highlight of 2009. THE LOVING TONGUE is composed of Jimmy Petkoff (guitar, vocals), Big Tom Petkoff (bass & backing vocals) & Joe Toscano (drums) and I gotta tell you, they raise a ruckus that belies their number. “Tears Of A Unicorn” is a swirling power metal number that sets the tone for the entire record. Melodic yet forceful as hell, it takes flight on the near-orchestral strength of this band and then hits the stratosphere with the vibrato-laden vox of Jimmy P as well as his superb guitar work. Throughout the course of this lengthy disc, Petkoff’s axemanship is a source of constant admiration from this listener. If you can imagine a guy with the riffs of Blackmore, the tone of Stevie Ray (yeah, he plays a Strat…cool to see in metal these days) and the lead virtuosity of Uli Roth, you might have an idea. Yeah, he’s good, man! Behind Jimmy’s sterling 6-strings & killer pipes, Big Tom & Joe lay down a stone-solid rhythm section. Of course, it wouldn’t matter worth a tinker’s damn without songs and the 14 on offer here are top-drawer. Averaging around 6 minutes apiece, there’s plenty room for the aforementioned soloing from Petkoff, but there’s melody and hooks aplenty. Weak links aren’t something you’ll find on this record, but a couple highlights for me are the soaring “Temple Of Love,” “Hard One To Love” (with Jimmy yelling “Guitar now!” before a nasty solo) and the purely gorgeous ballad “Written In The Stars.” When I think about the fact that an album of this quality is so virtually unknown (for instance, Bible Of The Devil are like front page news compared to this unit), I suppose that is one of the ultimate ironies. And…um, Tony, Ronnie, Geezer & Vinnie…how’s about that cover of “Heaven & Hell” (Track 10)? Somehow I doubt you’ll see THE LOVING TONGUE covering “Bible Black” on their next CD. Lick It Up

NOTE: Not only are THE LOVING TONGUE’s previous discs worth checking out as well, but also investigate Jimmy Petkoff’s even more doom-metal unit, RAVEN BLACK NIGHT.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Magic Man And Woman

AMADOU & MARIAM – “The Magic Couple” CD ’09 (Wrasse, Mali) – I have to admit, I’m a rank amateur. Now wait a minute, I didn’t say I’m rank, although sometimes my wife and kids do say that. As in, I’ve just come in from mowing the lawn and I hear “Wow, Dad, you’re rank, take a shower!” No, I actually just did get out of the shower, thank you, so I’m most assuredly not rank. But I am a rank amateur when it comes to African music. I may know metal like the back of my hand, hard rock like a book, etc. But African music is something I’ve yet to really explore like the modern-day Leif Ericson that I am. So, when good ol’ buddy Racer from The Ripple Effect began to effuse praise for this release from AMADOU & MARIAM, my curiosity boiled over until I finally ran from the house and sped to the nearest music emporium to check it out for myself. I’m so glad I did!

To begin with, the 15 tracks here are culled from at least 3 different albums that AMADOU BAGAYOKO and MARIAM DOUMBIA (who fell in love many years ago, with music as the background) recorded during the period from 1997 through 2001 and released internationally. For me, however, this is undoubtedly a brand new, fresh and completely maiden voyage. And what a voyage it is! The CD opens with the pensive and hypnotic “Je Pense A Toi,” with it’s rhythmic percussion and trippy violin & guitar lines snaking smoothly in between the mantra-like vocals of AMADOU. From there, the upbeat and infectious “Sarama (La Charmante)” takes over, borne on MARIAM’s beautiful lead vocal. Over the fifteen songs present, the couple (along with their many musical compatriots) continue to weave a brand of music that is all things from soulful to dance-inducing to heart-rending. The common thread is that every single cut is bound together by a beauty and power that is rare in most forms of music I’ve listened to. Surprising to me (yet very welcome) are the aggressive guitar & rollicking harmonica of “Combattants,” the jaunty blues shuffle of “Chantez-Chantez” and the insistent rocking of “Poulo (Les Peuls).” Through it all, the vocals of AMADOU & MARIAM hold the listener’s ears in a cradle of comfort and yet stimulate constantly.

All in all, AMADOU & MARIAM’s “The Magic Couple” is a breath of fresh air for me as a listener but that’s not all. It’s also an education on music from an area of which I was unfamiliar and it made me realize just how little I know. At the same time, it was a reminder of how styles from all places can not only sit comfortably side-by-side but, in the right hands, can blend together in a wonderful tapestry of true “world” sounds. Most of all, “The Magic Couple” are just that: beautiful, powerful and magic. Rhythm In Their Voices

NOTE: A much more in-depth review by a buddy well-versed in African music can be read at:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Grand Halls 34

GOLPE DE ESTADO – “10 Anos Ao Vivo” CD ’97 (Paradoxx, Brazil) – To be honest, of all the records/CD’s I received over the year of 1997, I looked forward to this one with the most interest. Having been introduced to Brazilian band GOLPE DE ESTADO and their 5 (up till then) studio LP’s by good buddy Luc Torfs, I yearned for the alleged live album. I say “alleged” as I had heard rumors of it from differing places for at least a year before, never getting any leads. Finally, I found someone who knew somebody who had a friend of a friend who knew of it and had this thing in my hands in a few short weeks. Was it worth the wait and $? Oh yeah! GOLPE DE ESTADO is steeped in the ‘70’s hard rock tradition of luminaries like Y&T, UFO, old Bow Wow and maybe a little early NWOBHM. Nothing they do is tremendously complex, their albums are full of direct, point-blank and catchy hard rock…in other words, the nectar of the gods…my gods, anyway! On this live collection, every GOLPE album of the 5 that proceeded it is represented nicely as guitar master Helcio Aguirra uncorks one infectious riff after another and peels off melodic-yet-paint-stripping leads. Rogerio Fernandez’s vocals are not anything in the least operatic, but they are totally cool for just that reason. This guy isn’t trying to impress anybody, just sing with feeling and enough melody to make you remember the songs a year later. The rhythm work laid down by Nelson Brito (bass) and Paulo Zinner (drums) is as solid as a chunk of granite and heavy as a bitch throughout. (Zinner gets to strut his percussive stuff in a lengthy drum solo in “Zinner’s Ritual” and although I’m no big fan of ANYBODY’s drum solos, this one is not a waste of space.) It’s pointless to list particular cuts as being better than others because this band has been so consistent in the writing department through all their LP’s. It is worth noting, however, that at the end of the CD, we find 2 new studio cuts from 1996 that are fantastic. This leaves me with hope that the band’s next studio LP, 2004’s “Pra Poder,” is simply the next in their run of superb material. And since I’ve just learned of the existence of that one, trust me, the check is in the mail and I should be obtaining a copy asap. In the meantime, I can tell you that if you’re the poor soul who has not yet heard the Brazilian treat called GOLPE DE ESTADO, this is a great place to start. Got Live If You Want It

Monday, October 12, 2009

A San Francisco Treat

ANVIL CHORUS – “The Killing Sun” CD ’09 (Rockadrome, US) – I thought long and hard about how I wanted to open this review. I’ll admit it, as you probably already know (the 3 of you who read this site…just kidding!), I get into this sort of thing where every damn review has to have some sort of epic intro. There’s gotta be some way that I trace the history of how the band in question involved themselves in my musical life and all that. Well, here we go again…but it won’t take all that long, I promise. See back in the late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s there was this guy named Ray and he worked as manager of a record store. One fateful day, sliding from between the albums in a box from Greenworld Records came a trashy little newsprint magazine called Metal Mania. Seems it was published by a KUSF metal disc jockey named Ron Quintana and it did 2 things: 1) It knocked me on my ass by showing me just how much I DIDN’T know about the burgeoning metal underground and 2) shortly thereafter became my bible. Not only was this cat talking about all the same bands I was discovering (Accept, Y&T, Sweet Savage, Electric Sun, Angel Witch, etc.) he was opening up a helluva lot of new doors for your’s truly. First off, the guy had been to shows like Reading in England and was giving first-hand accounts of live performances by the likes of Budgie, Maiden, Baron Rojo, etc. That had my attention alone, in a truly jealous admiration. Most importantly, however, through his writing he was making me very aware of an exponentially expanding metal scene right in his San Francisco backyard. Names like Metallica, Exodus, Warning, and ANVIL CHORUS resided in his playlist right next to things I knew Goddamn well were great already. So, what was I to do but contact Ron and a few of his other buddies to find out more about this obvious West Coast treasure trove? It was with that contact that Mr. Q was cool enough to run me off copies of some of these bands’ demos and I was off to the races! To be honest, everything he sent me was great but the one that stood out the most was the material by, yes, ANVIL CHORUS.

It’s here that I’ll take a break (Please, Ray, I hear you begging!) and refer you to that oft-dreaded term of recent years, “prog metal.” I know, I know. You’re probably cringing, with visions in your mind of bespectacled, po-faced musos fresh out of Julliard, grimacing in pseudo-intelligence as they navigate precisely (and without a hint of feeling) through 35-minute suites with names like “Scenes From A Distant Black Clouded Memory Of Redemption While A Multitude Of Octogenarians Jerk Off To My Tweedling.” No, no my readers, please put aside your notions. You remember Rush, of course? Think back to the time before they went off to try to become The Police for awhile and graced us (not under pressure!) with brilliance like “A Farewell To King” and “Hemispheres.” That was early prog metal, of course, and then in the mid ‘80’s, we started to hear things like Queensryche, Fates Warning and…ouch, yes, Dream Theater. But in between, there was a band who found the vibe left by those masterful Rush records and imbued it with some of the NWOBHM’s growing aggression, but without losing the melody…in fact, emphasizing it in favour of making more convoluted songs and put the cherry on top of it with massive, ripping dual lead guitars. This band should have been huge, should have been stars but alas, it never happened. More so, they never even put out a record, only demos. The why’s and wherefores of how ANVIL CHORUS evolved and why they never consummated their art on vinyl back in the day are a path I’ll let you travel with Mr. Quintana in his brilliant liner notes to this CD. The fact that the disc in fact exists, the work of a current 2009 ANVIL CHORUS, finally bringing to life this fearsomely awesome music is a wonderful thing and that, in and of itself, begs me to comment thusly.

What I really like about what ANVIL CHORUS has done here is simple, to begin with. The guys have recognized just how special the songs they concocted so many years ago remain so many years later. With that in mind, they've taken the time to record brand new versions of those songs and finally give them their proper airing. Yes, as guitarist Thaen Rasmussen tells me, the band is currently working on new material but this stuff is legendary and can now be heard, even better than ever. Where do you begin? The nearly thrash opener of “Deadly Weapons,” the multi-sectioned-yet-sharply-focused 6 minutes of “Red Skies,” the way “Man Made Machines” blends ethereal melodies in the chorus with a bludgeoning guitar riff in the verse. It’s all there, borne on the powerful, smooth vocals of Aaron Zimpel and the devastating lead guitar work of Thaen Rasmussen and (on most cuts), his original sparring partner, Doug Piercy. Phil Bennett’s ultra-melodic keyboard washes paint a broad melodic panorama that adds a nearly 3-D quality to the excellence on offer from beginning to end of this superb disc. Just imagine what it would have been like if there had only existed a demo version of “Saints In Hell” up until now and Priest had finally recorded it like the monster you knew it was and laid it on you full-force. That’s what this sum-bitch is like. Ignoring “The Killing Sun” is not an option. Buy it now. Birth Of A Dream (Come True)

Friday, October 9, 2009

My Smooth Kentucky Home

SMOOTH KENTUCKY – “A Few More Miles” CD ’09 (Private, US) – Step up, ladies and gentlemen and gather closely, for without allowing my fingers to ever leave my hands, I am about to reference a 1985 Eurythmics song in a review of a 2009 bluegrass record. Think I can’t do it? And have it make sense? Oh, ye doubting Thomases! Read on….

As has been my habit, and recently with great success, I took a dive into the “local music” section at a Baltimore CD store about 2 weeks ago. When I emerged, I pulled out my regulator, peeled off my wetsuit and took a look at what I had. SMOOTH KENTUCKY – “A Few Miles More.” Tranquil country scene on the cover and a little description in pen scribbled on the price tag: bluegrass. Hmm…. I opened the sweet little LP-sleeve-style cover and began reading. 7-piece band, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, dobro, 2 guys doing lead guitar. Then I let my eyes drift across the songs themselves and my interest was really piqued. See, over the last few years that I’ve embraced the bluegrass genre, I’ve found that an awful lot of bands do covers of traditional pieces. And, this is fine. Bluegrass is a style of music, like folk and Celtic, that’s produced a large number of absolutely timeless numbers. Regardless of how many times it’s been done, you can never have enough of a talented bunch of players and singers having a go at something like Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen.” That one’s been tackled by everybody from The Flying Burrito Brothers to Phish to Buck Owens to Goldie Hawn. Goldie Hawn!?!?! Really. Still, with all of that, I sit up and take note when I see a bluegrass band that writes their own stuff. One of my favourite examples of this are Realm favourites Iron Ridge (having graced my Year End Top 10 more than once). It’s that added spur of flair and originality that made my eyes light up when I noticed that SMOOTH KENTUCKY’s debut is comprised of all self-scribed material, save for a cover of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me.” So, it was with great anticipation that I pushed the > button on the old Realm-o-Matic.

First song in, Ed Hough’s vocals begin telling of his longing for “Sweet Amanda” over an upbeat, infectious melody and I’m hooked already. The conversational soloing between the guitars, fiddle and mandolin is plentiful but never overwhelms the song, a Hough composition. “Slipstream Abilene” continues the same feel with even a bit more melody. Hough’s voice is really going down nice & easy with a friendly, yet commanding tone. BJ Lazarus (who penned this one…), Cris Jacobs (one of the lead guitarists, along with Jordan Tice) and a trio of guests add harmony vocals that just ring with vibrancy. “Banjo Bend” ups the ante with a headlong pace and jamming between the players that’s riveting. Then we find “I Don’t Mind” gracing our ears with a melody that’s so sweet it’ll be in your mind for months. And, so SMOOTH KENTUCKY continues through the course of this album, with one highlight after another, from the finger-burning instrumental of “Skippin’ Lucy” to the heartfelt ballad of “The Way” and gorgeous album closer, “Halfway Home,” featuring vocals and ivories so poignant that I’m reminded of 7N’s Kirk McLeod’s solo disc, “Solo Piano.”

With all this, however, the track that brought me up short was # 9, “Leavin’ This Old Town.” When this energetic cut, written by Ed Hough, hit it’s chorus, I have to say I haven’t felt such a wave of pure melody rip my heart right out of my chest. See, one of my very favourite melodies (and songs) ever, is a track by the Eurythmics from their 1985 release “Be Yourself Tonight” entitled “There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart).” From the first time I heard Annie Lennox wrap her pipes around that beauty, it became one of my “go to” songs…for any number of occasions. Now, let me make something very clear. The chorus of SMOOTH KENTUCKY’s “Leavin’…” is far from a copy of that tune, but it’s a singular case of something mining a similar melody and using it to stunning effect. Don’t believe me? Listen to each one. Tell me you’ve still got a hair on either of your arms that’s not standing up. That’s beautiful, powerful stuff.

In all, pulling “A Few More Miles” out of that ocean of local CD’s a few weeks back was a shot in the dark, but it’s another on my recent streak of luck that’s hit the bulls-eye. The only thing that’s left is for me to check these guys out live sometime, because I’m sure they can lay it down like nobody’s business. Highly recommended! A Derby Winner

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Curse Of A Shitty Drum Sound

THE ACCUSED – “The Curse Of Martha Splatterhead” CD ’09 (Southern Lord, US) – Funny about the Southern Lord label. I remember the days of seeing that name and thinking, damn what kind of kick-ass motherfucker are they going to lay on us this time?! Somehow, over time, that metamorphosed into my reaction being, damn, what kind of over-rated pseudo-intelligent drone-ass turd are they going to drop on our heads this time?! So, you can imagine my surprise when word came tumbling down the internet grapevine that Southern Lord had signed Seattle spatter-core merchants, THE ACCUSED. The truth is, it’s a bit of a stretch to call this album the work of THE ACCUSED anyway. While Tommy Niemeyer (guitar) still mans the 6-string, the rest of the band is now a different crew, particularly notable being Blaine Cook’s vocal slot now being filled by Brad Mowen. Anyone who has any familiarity with the band’s previous works knows that Cook’s throat was something of a modern medical marvel. The guy simply opened up his mouth and out came pouring bile, rusty razor blades, nail bomb fragments, and shrieks that could only be made by something a good bit less than human at midnight in a slaughterhouse. You’d hate to hang that kind of reputation on anybody, but Mowen does give it a good run and his work throughout this 14 track record is consistently good. Same can be said for the other 2 new guys, bassist Dorando Hodous and Mike Peterson on drums. The thing that makes the record work, at least musically, is the ever-familiar and yet volatile guitar work of Niemeyer. From pillar to post, Tommy delivers a non-stop riff barrage that sounds like a pissed-off cross between Bones and Gary Holt let loose at a Lady Gaga concert with a chainsaw. The reason I said “at least musically,” however, is the unfortunate drum sound. Actually, “unfortunate” is quite an understatement and it has precious little to do with the aforementioned Peterson’s chops. No, the guy can play. The problem is, his work is hampered by the most hideous, trash-can production this side of “St. Anger” and it also seriously mars not only the sound of the entire band but the listener’s enjoyment. It got to the point, about 2/3 of the way through the record that every time Niemeyer opened a song with a devastating riff, I was actually hoping the number would consist of just him playing and Mowen singing…just so I wouldn’t have to hear that fucking trash-can drum noise again! It’s a shame to say so, but after listening to this record enough to review it, I doubt I ever will again simply because of how God blessed annoying the drum production is, and you’re talking about a guy who used to listen to Natas rehearsals! Too bad, as while not THE ACCUSED of old, these guys can still tear it up. Damn Bam Bam

Italianuris Thrashuris

RESURRECTURIS – “Non Voglio Morire” CD ’09 (Casket, Ita) – The very reception of music at a zine/blog these days takes on a lot different tenor than it used to. Way back a spell, it used to be that 90% of what fell out of the Realm mail box was something of a mystery, unknown and untested until I pulled it out of the brown package and either shoved it in the CD player or (further back still) slapped it on the turntable. In these current times, you can flip that percentage right around the other way and rest assured that 90% of what I take out of the post is generally anticlimactic. Reason being, with the net there isn’t a whole lot that I haven’t at least heard part or all of by the time the physical medium reaches my door. Now, don’t get me wrong, I want the physical disc/vinyl…NEED the actual album in my hand. It’s just the way I roll, being an old fart. The truth remains however, that it’s quite uncommon to take a CD out of the mail and not know a damn thing about it prior. Italy’s RESURRECTURIS is one that managed to find itself in that category. When I slid this in it was a new one on me. Never heard of the band, never heard of the album and thus, just like the old days, I was going in blind when I popped it in. Now, it would it would be impossible for me to say that the music on “Non Voglio Morire” stands up to the wrapping. Seriously, something would have to be the 2nd coming of “Reign In Blood” to match the lavish package complete with huge digipak, booklet and DVD. What RESURRECTURIS is, however, is quite good thrash (often bordering on death) metal with a couple twists. To be honest, while songs like “The Origin” and “Fuck Face” hold their own with the recent offerings of Kreator and Exodus, it’s the left turns these guys take that make them most interesting. The electronica-intro of “The Artist” and the surprisingly melodic and tuneful ballad “Calling Our Names” offer some real nice dynamics. It’s these unexpected diversions that make “Non Voglio…” stand out, at least for those moments, from the pack and indicate a cool palette of influence from main man Carlo Strappa. Here’s hoping it’s something he pursues even more on future works. A Good Italian Job
(Note: The DVD features a video for the song “The Fracture.” It’s ok but I think more coulda been done with this. The band seem intent on looking pissed and, let's face it, Pantera established a reference standard on that a long time ago. And that's not meant as any knock on Dime (R.I.P.) and crew (utter Gods), nor these guys for that matter. Just that when you're going to include a special video medium, make it something really special!)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Grand Halls 33

ROOTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS – “Roots Of Consciousness” CD ’94 (Syn-Phonic, US) – I can’t really name a whole lot of notable heavy music that has come out of Georgia, other than Mastodon and a decent portion of the Southern Rock genre. That’s one of the reasons why this one was such a surprise. Another reason it was surprising is that when it first came into my hands some years back, it bowled me over like good ol’ Dick Weber! A couple things you’ll hear right off the bat in this superb disc are early Crack The Sky and Rush, with very heavy guitars playing off-time rhythms and anything-but-standard song structures. This is most apparent in “Time Out Of Mind” and the lengthy epic, “ ” (yes, that’s what it’s called, altho’ it has 4 sub-titles). I just love the end of this masterpiece, where the rhythms and lead work of Brian Neuwirth sound like a demented cross between old Alex Lifeson and Tony Iommi! Still, hell, I don’t even know HOW to explain originality exploding into areas like “Candelabra” and “Lethe Warf,” which features some smoking heavy keys, courtesy of Bill Schuessler. The whole band is like a sizzling live wire, but it’s obvious that the main man was Brian Neuwirth. Besides handling guitar and adding his John Palumbo-esque vocals, he penned all the music and lyrics, quite an impressive collection. From one song to another, the man’s musical creativity is matched by his insight and wit in a panorama that always reminds me of Buddo J. Buddo (Last Crack…remember them?!). This all makes more poignant the fact that just about a year after this record’s release, Neuwirth tragically died. Aside from the devastation to his family & friends, you also have to wonder what more he would have brought to the musical table beyond this one album. A very cool lyric book with great artwork completes this CD, which was my album of the year many years back. (I was lucky enough to do an interview with Brian Neuwirth not long after this disc’s release. It was originally published in my printed zine back then and I may re-print it here in the future). Georgia On My CD Player

Grand Halls 32

HERITAGE – “Remorse Code” LP ’82 (Rondelet, Eng) – Along with a handful of other gods like Legend, Witchfinder General, Witchfynde, Shiva and Limelight, HERITAGE were, chronologically a part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM)…but not sonically, that’s for sure. Owing more to mid / late ‘70’s hard rock, this foursome of Brits created a special sound on this gettin’-rarer-everyday platter that’s seldom been done this well. Like all truly top-drawer music merchants from any age, HERITAGE display songs that are memorable. The title cut and “Need You Today,” especially, are moments of pure magic. The songs gel remarkably in the form of melodic heavy rock, highlighted by beautiful double lead guitar work, often calling to mind (moment of silence) Thin Lizzy. Truly, “Remorse Code” is one of the very best records of the NWOBHM. Code Red

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BOULDER DAMN – “Mournin’” LP ’71 (Private, US) – Man, this is the kind of stuff I live for! BOULDER DAMN was from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and they were influenced by early Sabbath, Alice C and Blue Cheer among others, so you know they had to be massive. This record is right up there at the top of the heap when it comes to that dirty, back-o-the-garage, low-down B Cheer/Cactus ass-busting vibe. You know, guttural rock that sounds like the guitar was put through some kind of chainsaw amp set on “11” and the singer sounds like he’s going to die if he doesn’t get his fix of whatever before he gets to the next syllable. Nothing the least techno-minded, that’s for sure, just kicking butt with whiskey, cigarettes and gasoline. You gotta dig the L-O-N-G cut on Side Two called “Dead Meat,” it’s in the 15 minute range and includes a riff that’d make Tony Iommi quake in his 1970 boots, plus all kinds of changes and cool, like anti-establishment lyrics, maaaaaan! At least get the re-ish on Rockadelic if you can find it, ok, this murders! Goddamn!