Sofa King Killer—Midnight Magic (2004)

Sofa King Killer—Midnight Magic (2004)

Sofa King Killer—Midnight Magic (2004)

Details

Produced by Thorla and Seelye. Mastered by David Torrey at DRT Masteringart. Released on Retribute Records, 2004.

Wikipedia

Band

  • Ryan Burgy—Vocals
  • Chris Chiera—Guitar
  • Paul Bartholet—Bass
  • Brad Thorla—Drums

Tracks

  1. It’s Fun To Be The Bad Guy
  2. Taller Buckets Hold More
  3. The Getaway
  4. The God Out Of Reach
  5. Killing People Is Easy
  6. No Other Path To Pursue
  7. An Ode To Myself
  8. Don’t Slow Me Down
  9. Thiboderux
  10. Holy Bottle

Review

Sofa King Killer were a sludge metal band from Akron in Ohio. According to Wikipedia,

Sofa King Killer’s (abbreviated as SKK) vision was to create a hybrid band of different genres including doom metal, sludge metal, rock and roll and punk rock. The band was known for guitar riffs inspired by Black Sabbath, drums of the Melvins and the vocals of Eyehategod.

If this album is anything to judge them on—and there’s not much more in their back-catalogue, so it will have to do—they’ve done a pretty good job realising their vision.

I imagine this would be a great album to listen to on a long train journey, sitting staring out of the window. The pace of the songs stays pretty consistent, the audible landscape varies little, slowing down here and there, but on the whole bouncing its way through one dirty riff after another.

This is the kind of album that I can listen to on repeat, the kind of album I can listen to and enjoy but which doesn’t distract me for getting on with other pieces of work. This would be great music for writing to, or coding to.

Chiera’s guitars are heavy and loose, tuned down and distorted; Bartholet’s bass guitar rumbles along the bottom occasionally shining through when given the space; Thorla’s drums hold it all together, plenty of cymbal crashes, with the snare tick-tocking to keep the beat; while over the top Burgy’s vocals are throaty and hoarse. It’s tight and loose all the same time. With each song I found my head nodding as I bounced along to the groove.

Conclusion

No surprise but I found this album really enjoyable. Sludge metal has been one of my delightful finds in this project: the average score that I’ve given a sludge metal album is 81%.

It’s a shame that Sofa King Killer split in 2009. I’d liked to have heard more from them. I’ll just have to track down their debut album Stout-Soaked Songs (2000) and see how it compares.

Review score: 90%

Bonus

Ramming Speed—Brainwreck (2008)

Ramming Speed—Brainwreck (2008)

Ramming Speed—Brainwreck (2008)

Details

Recorded onto 2 inch tape by Jordan Levantini (with assistance from Nick Wolf) at New Alliance. It was then dumped into Protools before being dumped back onto tape for mastering by Nick Zampiello at New Alliance East. Released on Teenage Disco Bloodbath Records in 2008.

Band

  • Pete “Za” Gallagher—Vocals
  • Kallen “Lock ’em up” Bliss—Guitars
  • Ricky “Ta Speed” Zampa—Guitars
  • Derek “The Bass Player” Cloonan—Bass
  • Jonah “The Laser Storm” Livingston—Drums

Tracks

  1. Speed trials
  2. The threat…
  3. Lazer assault
  4. All in all
  5. Shane Embury is the Brad Pitt of grindcore
  6. Bogus facade
  7. Sound the alarm
  8. Immigrant song
  9. Political party
  10. Man vs machine
  11. Arrested development
  12. A modern myth
  13. Heavy metal thunder

Review

From the moment I listened to the first track I knew that I’d like this album. To be honest, I had a sneaking suspicion before that when I read through the lyrics printed on the inside of the CD packaging. This is a band with both a sense of humour and a political opinion.

I first noticed the song “Immigrant song” and wondered if it was a cover of the Led Zeppelin classic. It’s not. But it’s brilliant: a commentary on how badly migrants are treated. It ends with “We’re so fickle with the arguments we choose / Many of our ancestors faced hardships when they arrived / So let our new immigrant amigos just live their lives”. Well said!

Something I noticed too when typing out the band members’ names. How upset must Derek Cloonan be to get such an unimaginative nickname?! We Pete “Za” Gallagher on vocals, Kallen “Lock ’em up” Bliss and Ricky “Ta Speed” Zampa on guitars, and Jonah “The Laser Storm” Livingston on drums. How on earth then did Derek Cloonan only get given the nickname “The Bass Player”? That’s about as creative as when Jason Newsted joined Voivod and inherited the moniker Jasonic.

Conclusion

This debut album from US thrash / crossover merchants Ramming Speed is really rather good. It has a very old school thrash/punk feel to it. Think Evile meets early Suicidal Tendencies.

This album will definitely be on my playlist throughout 2016.

Review score: 90%

Gunslinger—Earthquake in E Minor (2008)

Gunslinger—Earthquake in E Minor (2008)

Gunslinger—Earthquake in E Minor (2008)

Details

Engineered and produced by Alan Davey and Nigel Potter. Mixed by Alan Davey. Mastered by Paul Cobbold. Recorded at Boot Hill Studios.

Band

  • Alan Davey—Bass, vocals and synths and keyboards
  • Nigel Potter—Rhythm and lead guitars, vocals and keyboards
  • George Agent the 2nd—Drums and percussion

Tracks

  1. Night song
  2. If the bombs don’t get ya the bullets will
  3. Shell shocked
  4. Savage love
  5. Cyanide
  6. Blitzkrieg baby
  7. Going in for the kill
  8. Hymn to the wild
  9. Don’t need you
  10. Warhorse
  11. Gunslinger

Review

Bands that sound like other bands: AC/DC has Airbourne, Led Zeppelin has Kingdom Come (who were nicknamed ‘Kingdom Clone’; Gary Moore sang about them, with Ozzy, on his After the War (1989) track “Led Clones”)… it would appear that Motörhead has Gunslinger.

Everything about the band screams Motörhead: the Lemmy-like vocals, the dominant overdriven Rickenbacker bass sound, the song structures, even the inlay sleeve shows the band dressed in black, wearing cowboy hats–reminiscent of the Motörhead—Ace of Spades (1980) cover… though nowhere near as cool. (Sorry guys!)

What I found most fascinating, though, is that bassist/vocalist Alan Davey appears to be the antithesis of Motörhead. Whereas Lemmy left (…was fired from) Hawkwind to form Motörhead, Davey left a Motörhead-sounding band to join Hawkwind. He was with them from 1984–1996, and then again from 2001–2007 before reforming Gunslinger.

So… what’s the album like?

Well, first up: the artwork is really terrible. It’s like a someone has just discovered how to layer stock images in Photoshop. Take the surface of Mars, the sky, some lightning, a few explosions, a black circle, a skull with red eyes, a crudely hand-drawn band name, and a photo of three blokes… paste, new layer, paste, new layer, repeat… ta da!

But let’s not judge an album by its cover. Thankfully the music is better. Much better.

Sure it sounds like Motörhead (have I mentioned that already?), but it’s classic-era Motörhead that it sounds like. It sounds like the early albums, when Motörhead were fresh and young. But it (inevitably) has elements of Hawkwind in there too (they use synths and keyboards), as well as a kind of wild west feel that immediately put me in mind of Adam and the Ants.

My favourite tracks by far on the album are the excellent “Cyanide” and the blow-away “Warhorse” which features some fabulous solos, both on guitar and bass.

Conclusion

Motörhead-clone they may be, but this is straight-up, top notch British rock and roll. According to the Metal Archives, “Lemmy Kilmister has dubbed [Alan Davey] the second ‘bass assassin’. Good skills!

Review score: 90%

Video

Detritivore—Pakt (2010)

Detritivore—Pakt (2010)

Detritivore—Pakt (2010)

Details

Music by Detritivore. Artwork by Justin Bartlett. Produced by Joakim Jensen. Mastered by James Plotkin.

Band

  • ?

Tracks

  1. Postludium
  2. Lutring
  3. Messe
  4. Undergang
  5. Pakt
  6. Finale

Review

With an album cover like that I expected something dark and black and Norwegian. And it is but not in the conventional sense.

It’s hard to categorise this album. It reminds me in part of Monotheist-era Celtic Frost (it’s the dirty, slow guitar sound) and Justin Broadrick’s post-Godflesh shoegaze/drone outfit Jesu.

This album is certainly not easy to listen to in the background; the album demands your attention, and there’s something really great about that.

So, a quick run down of the tracks:

“Postludium” is initially like an atmospheric soundtrack to the zombie level of one of the Call of Duty games. Then there’s a bouncing distorted riff that puts me in mind of Apocalytica at their most energetic, and distant sung vocals in the style of something from Towering Inferno’s Kadesh (1993).

“Lutring” builds on a distorted, sustained note. This could be something from Bladerunner. The note broadens to a chord. A heavily detuned guitar punches Tom G Warrior-style riffs out through a deeply distorted amplifier. It closes with the sound of planes flying over a post-apocalyptic landscape.

“Messe” offers more weird noises into which a guitar picks out a diatonic pattern beneath a quietly wailing violin. Eventually these are joined by a bass and overdriven guitar. Sustaaaaaaaaiiiiinnnnn,,,

“Undergang” sounds like it was recorded in the London underground. During a flood. It’s a study in white noise without anyone actually saying “Shhhh!”

“Pakt”. The title track. A clean arpeggio opens the track. Bludgeoning riffs. Dischordant chords. All played slowly and deliberately.

“Finale” beings with high-pitched squeals. Out from it emerges a rolling, almost bouncing riff that eventually burns itself out after eight minutes.

Conclusion

This is an unexpected gem. It’s experimental. It’s interesting. It demands attention. I really, really loved this album. Well done… whoever you are.

Review score: 90%

John 5—Requiem (2008)

John 5—Requiem (2008)

John 5—Requiem (2008)

Details

All songs written by John 5. Recorded at the Chop Shop in Hollywood, California, USA. Produced by Chris Baseford and John 5. Executive producer—John 5. Mastered by Undercurrent Studios. Engineered by Chris Baseford. Assistant engineer—Will Thompson. Released on Mascot Records in 2008.

www.john-5.com

Band

  • John 5—all guitars, bass, banjo
  • Tommy Clufetos—Drums

Tracks

  1. Sounds of impalement
  2. Heretic’s fork
  3. Noisemaker’s fire
  4. Pity belt
  5. Cleansing the soul
  6. The Judas cradle
  7. Pear of anguish
  8. The lead sprinkler
  9. Scavenger’s daughter
  10. Requiem

Review

This is the second John 5 CD that I’ve reviewed, at the end of last year I listened to The Devil Knows My Name (2007) and gave it a complementary 85%. How does this, its sequel, compare?

It’s great! There are still elements of portfolio-of-someone-about-to-graduate-from-the-Guitar-Institute-of-Technology but overall this is a heavier, more focused album in my opinion. With smatterings of finger-pickin’ bluegrass an’ banjo!

The album opens with “Sounds of impalement” which is reminds me of a cross between Stone Sour and Steve Vai. It’s rocky, it’s fun.

Next up is the Alice In Chains-like “Heretic’s Fork” which opens with a riff that’s not a million miles away from “We die young” from Facelift (1990), until it’s reveals its true widdly-heart. A tune that certainly gets my head nodding every time.

“Noisemaker’s Fire” sounds like a bluegrass track that’s been recorded in a room full of cine projectors and dot matrix printers. About halfway through, though, it seems to employ almost exactly the same riff as “Heretic’s Fork”. This gives these couple of tracks a kind of suite feel to it. I like it.

Track 4 “Pity belt” is the first track I would likely skip, to be honest. More bluegrass-style picking along to a drum kit in the background; thin sound; not my thing. However, it inspires the widdle-tastic and very much electric “Cleansing the soul”, so I guess it stays on my playlist.

“The Judas cradle” (track 6) opens with strings and an intriguing arpeggio that soon bursts into a Black Sabbath-style riff that is both dark and haunting. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album.

“Pear of anguish” features the only vocals on the album, even if those are slowed down speech. More bluegrass style banjo pickin’. A cheesy little portion of silliness.

“The lead sprinkler” sees the album retreat to the darker places once again. More Steve Vai or Joe Satriani-like widdling.

“Scavenger’s daughter” opens with a delicate tune picked out on guitar, beneath the rumbling drums and the frosty winds of Hoth that then explodes into a Slayer-like riff that absolutely rips! The flight of the bumblebee arpeggio runs kind of spoil it a little for me but whenever John 5 returns to the Slayer-like riff he wins me over again.

The album closes with the title track “Requiem”. It’s experimental (squeaks and squeals, reverbed drums, samples of guitar) and really quite interesting. It builds and builds towards the end, and closes with a picked guitar arpeggio (is there any other kind?) that is reminiscent of the intro to Slayer’s “Seasons in the abyss”. It is quite emotive and very atmospheric.

Conclusion

All in all a great album by all accounts. While the banjo and bluegrass-style portions don’t exactly float my boat I can forgive John 5 for these. They reflect his style and his interests (rather than mine), and they are neither indulgent nor played to death. Besides they often inspire the following track, giving a more coherent and interdependent feel to the album. There is always plenty more to interest the listener. And this listener in particular. Good stuff!

Review score: 90%

Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-_44zgIK1g]

Opera IX—The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem (2000)

Opera IX—The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem (2000)

Opera IX—The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem (2000)

Details

Recorded and mixed at Studio Underground, Sweden in January 2000. Produced and engineered by Pelle Saether. Assisted by Magnus Soderman and Lara Linden. Mastered at Massive Arts.

www.operaix.it

Band

  • Cadaveria—Vocals
  • Ossian—Guitars
  • Vlad—Bass
  • Lunaris—Keyboards
  • Flegias—Drums

Tracks

  1. Act I: The first seal
  2. Act II: Beyond the black diamond gates
  3. Act III: Carnal delight in the vortex of evil
  4. Act IV: Congressus cum daemone
  5. Act V: The magic temple
  6. Act IV: The sixth seal
  7. Bela Lugosi’s dead (Bauhaus cover)

Review

And so to the conclusion of my introduction to Opera IX, to their (and my) third album The Black Opera: Symphoniae Mysteriorum in Laudem.

I took a few days off before listening to this album, having had a bit of an Opera IX overload last week. I also had my first ocular migraine, which I’m still suffering from as I write this—the headache has gone for now but the visual anomalies are still very much present. To misquote someone on Twitter this week, having a migraine is a bit like staring at the sun, with concussion, listening to black metal! Anyway…

Of the three albums I’ve listened to this is by far the most palatable. The song writing is more mature, the musicianship is more accomplished, the production is better. All in all this is the best of the three, which is a bit of a relief as I was feeling a bit down about not terribly enjoying the last two albums.

Musically the album makes me think of Paradise Lost meets Arch Enemy, with elements of Celtic Frost’s more avant garde moments: it’s gothic metal with a black heart.

Whereas with previous albums the songs seems to go on for ever quite needlessly, this time around there seems to be more of a journey, more of a purpose. It’s more interesting.

I imagine that the lyrics aren’t the cheeriest, but given that I can’t focus just now I’m not even going to attempt to read them. It’s hard enough typing this on a keyboard that seems to melt in front of my eyes. For accessibility considerations on future releases black metal bands may wish to consider not printing their lyrics in red on black in the most unreadable script typeface. Just a thought boys and girls.

Conclusion

All in all, a much, much better release than their previous two offerings. This has been quite a fun recording to listen to as I’ve pottered rather blindly around the house in a migraineous haze. Good work Opera IX, more like this please.

Review score: 90%

Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVx7Nv9RUS8]

The Michael Schenker Group—2010—The 30th Anniversary Concert Live in Tokyo

The Michael Schenker Group—2010—The 30th Anniversary Concert Live in Tokyo

The Michael Schenker Group—2010—The 30th Anniversary Concert Live in Tokyo

Details

Recorded 13 January 2010 at Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo. Production co-ordinator: Tom Tao. Producer/director: Kiyoshi Iwasawa. Producer: Kota Akutsu. Director: Shin Yamamoto.

Released on Inakustik, 2010.

www.michaelschenkerhimself.com

Band

  • Gary Barden—Vocals
  • Michael Schenker—Lead guitar, vocals
  • Wayne Findlay—Guitar, keyboards, vocals
  • Neil Murray—bass guitar
  • Simon Phillips—Drums

Tracks

  1. Welcome howl
  2. Feels like a good thing
  3. Cry for the nations
  4. Let sleeping dogs lie
  5. Armed and ready
  6. Victim of illusion
  7. Are you ready to rock
  8. I want you
  9. Night to remember
  10. Into the arena
  11. Lost horizons
  12. Rock my nights away
  13. On and on
  14. Attack of the mad axeman
  15. Ride on my way
  16. Rock bottom
  17. Dance lady gipsy
  18. Doctor, doctor

Review

When I started listening to metal in the mid-80s it was from having listened to Queen almost 24/7. I made the jump straight to Celtic Frost, Slayer and Metallica. From rock to thrash and black metal. I completely circumvented most of NWOBHM (except Iron Maiden), early 70s prog (Uriah Heep, Rush); hard rock bands like Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult; shock rock acts like Alice Cooper, Kiss, WASP. It was only later that I filled in the gaps and retrospectively traced back up the metal family tree and discovered the likes of Judas Priest, Rainbow, Dio, Deep Purple, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Accept, and, of course, the Scorpions.

I still have never listened to complete Scorpions album, or a full Michael Schenker Group (MSG) album… until now.

Being an avid Planet Rock listener, I wasn’t entirely surprised with how many songs on this album I recognised (“Cry for the nations”, “Night to remember”, “Doctor, Doctor”). Or indeed how much I enjoyed this album. This is a solid, well-played, well-recorded live album.

Because it’s human nature to try to understand something new in relation to your existing frames of reference, this album reminds me most (bearing in mind that I’ve not listened to much Scorpions or MSG) of Bruce Dickinson’s first solo album Tattooed Millionaire (1990) both in terms of sound and even a few riffs. For example the riff from “Let sleeping dogs lie” (MSG, 1981) reminds me very much of “Lickin’ the Gun” (Dickinson, 1990). It seems pretty clear from the dates in which direction the inspiration came.

Conclusion

While the album didn’t really blow me away, I really enjoyed listening to it on repeat this past week. Each time the album finished I’d roll it back to track one again, which has to be a good sign. It’s good, solid hard rock, from a band who seem to be at the top of their game.

Review score: 90%

Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyzJSckh_fo]