BONUS Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self EP (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Ocean of Grief—Fortress of my Dark Self (2016)

Details

Release 12 February 2016 on GS Productions (Russian).

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Band

  • Charalabos Oikonomopoulos—Vocals
  • Filippos Koliopanos—Guitars
  • Dimitra Zarkadoula—Guitars
  • Giannis Koskinas—Bass
  • Aris Nikoleris—Keyboards
  • Thomas Motsios—Drums

 

Tracks

  1. Spiritual fortress
  2. House of misery
  3. Futile regrets
  4. Drowned in nostalgia
  5. The birth of chaos

Review

Back in May I received a kind email from Phil Koliopanos inviting me to review his band, Ocean of Grief’s new EP Fortress of my Dark Self. Here’s the review, a couple of months later. Sorry about that.

Melodic doom/death metal band Ocean of Grief were formed in Athens, Greece in late 2014 drawing inspiration mostly from Saturnus and Slumber. This is their first official release.

My immediate response after listening to the album on Soundcloud was to email their guitarist saying simply “Wow! This is great! Loving is so far.”

Overall the EP reminds me very much of early Gothic-era Paradise Lost. And that, for me, is a good thing. A very good thing.

The EP opens with “Spiritual fortress” (track 1).  A grand organ sound introduces the song, over which the guitars weave a lamentful melody. Gutteral, deep, growling vocals carve their way through the music. It is a doomy, gothic, lamentation.

“House of misery” (track 2) begins with a descending guitar arpeggio that builds to another beautiful and simple guitar melody. “Futile regrets” (track 3) is an up-beat and rocky number that employs another simple melodic guitar line that carries the song. About halfway through the band drops out for a guitar-only middle eight that introduces a new tick-tocking riff.

“Drowned in nostalgia” (track 4) opens slowly and gently. It’s the eeriest, most haunting track on the EP. Which is built on later as the vocals descend to a whisper.

The EP closes with “The birth of chaos” (track 5), another upbeat (for doom!) track

Conclusion

If I was looking for some criticism, I might say that there is not much variety in the EP. One song almost blends into the next. But on a release of this quality I can’t fault it on that. The songs are solid, tight and hold enough interest and individual character that it simply reminds the listener that these songs are part of a coherent collection by the same band—part of the family. Albeit a dark and lamentful family that sings tales of death and doom.

All in all, a brilliant first release that took me back to everything that I loved about Gothic (Paradise Lost) but to which Ocean of Grief added their own character and other influences.

More like this please.

Review score: 95%

Sayyadina—The Great Northern Revisited (2010)

Sayyadina—The Great Northern Revisited (2010)

Sayyadina—The Great Northern Revisited (2010)

Details

Tracks 1 to 8 recorded at Mart’s House, Tumba on 24 February 2001; engineered by Mart Hallgren. Tracks 9 to 17 recorded at Studio Sunlight, Stockholm from 2 to 8 September 2001; engineered by Tomas Skogsberg. Tracks 19 to 30 recorded at Studio Sunlight, Stockholm from 16 to 19 February 2002; engineered by Tomas Skogsberg. Mastered by Scott Hull. Released on Relapse Records.

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Band

  • Jon Lindqvist—Guitars and vocals
  • Andreas Eriksson—Bass and vocals
  • Ove Wiksten—Drums and vocals

Tracks

  1. Nothing
  2. Prozac generation
  3. The revenge
  4. The awakening
  5. Their control
  6. Min onda bän
  7. Instrumental
  8. Instrumental
  9. Someday I will kill
  10. Sort them out
  11. From ashes
  12. När fag faller
  13. Black rose
  14. Mid livet som insats
  15. Swallow
  16. All this fear
  17. Downfall
  18. Civilized control
  19. Retaliation
  20. Civilization
  21. Automation
  22. Compulsion
  23. Stagnation
  24. Confrontation
  25. Outrage
  26. Oppression
  27. Future digits
  28. Razor discipline
  29. Solitude
  30. Last days make the least

Review

I’m quite sure what it says about my personality that I find this kind of music unusually relaxing. Perhaps it’s simply that genres like grindcore contain a lot of white noise: “a consistent noise that comes out evenly across all hearable frequencies” (Source: Popular science).

Sayyadina (which means “friend of God” in Chakobsa, a fictional language used by the Fremen people of the Dune universe) are a grindcore band from Sweden, and are rather oddly not featured at all on Metal Archives.

This collection gathers together six individual releases, (a combination of individual and split 7″ EPs, LPs and CDs) as well as a handful of unreleased tracks. The sleeve notes documents the releases, offering insights and anecdotes about the recording sessions.

The music, rather inevitably, is brutal. A wall of guitar and bass, thrashing and changing direction on a whim; drums and cymbals that sound like a bag of jangling cutlery; vocals that are grunted and screamed. I shouldn’t like it, but it works.

The songs are short, between 12 seconds and 2′ 29″. And there are a lot of them.

Any discussion about grindcore would be incomplete without at least a passing reference to the godfathers of grindcore, Napalm Death. So that was it.

Conclusion

These is little to criticise about this release. It has just about everything you would want from a grindcore album. If you’re into early Napalm Death and haven’t checked these guys out then I urge you to do so now; listent to it on their Bandcamp page.

Review score: 95%

Rival Sons—Rival Sons promo (2011)

Rival Sons—Rival Sons (2011)

Rival Sons—Rival Sons (2011)

Details

Produced by Dave Cobb. Recorded and mixed by Pete Lyman at 1974.

Band

  • Jay Buchanan—Vocals
  • Scott Holiday—Guitars
  • Robin Everhart—Bass
  • Michael Miley—Drums

Tracks

  1. Get what’s coming
  2. Torture
  3. Radio
  4. Sacred Tongue
  5. Sleepwalker
  6. Soul

Review

I’ve been listening to Rival Sons for the last few years on Planet Rock radio forgetting that I had this promo CD sitting on my shelf. What a discovery!

Rival Sons are a blues rock band from Long Beach, California, USA. They have a bit of the same kind of vibe as Clutch, with some Black Crowes thrown in for good measure.

“Get what’s coming” (track 1) opens with a very Led Zeppelin-style gallop before settling into a Clutch-style groove that scans very satisfyingly: “Coulda been a docta but at least you’re not a preacha!” About halfway through the song slows to a ponderous jam (think Spinal Tap “Jazz odyssey”) before returning to its righteous stomp.

“Torture” (track 2)  is another upbeat number, with a very melodic, hummed chorus. I was trying to remember who they reminded me of, before I realised that it was a band that I’d heard on Planet Rock… yeah, you guessed it: Rival Sons. Moving swiftly on.

“Radio” (track 3) opens with a little drum solo and is built primarily around a bluesy little riff that again reminds me heavily of Clutch. It’s a great rock n’ roll song.

“Sacred tongue” (track 4) takes us in a completely different direction. It is delicate, vulnerable and acoustic. It reminds me very much of the vibe on Led Zeppelin III fused with Richard Thompson. It is by far my favourite track on the album.

“Sleepwalker” (track 5) takes up back to some powerful riffs that pulse and spark their way through the verses and are joined by a screaming harmonica for the choruses.

The final track on this promo EP is “Soul” (track 6). It is the most overtly blues track on the disc. So much so that I initially assumed that it must be a cover; it’s not. It has a very soulful, bluesy feel that reminds me of so much music that came out of the 1950s. Good stuff!

Conclusion

I didn’t expect to be as impressed as I have been by this promo. While I’d heard bits and pieces of Rival Sons on the radio it wasn’t until I’d heard more of it, in context, back-to-back before I really began to appreciate it. I may have to check them out more and I definitely want to learn to play “Sacred tongue” on my guitar.

Review score: 95%

Poison Idea—The Best of Poison Idea (2000)

Poison Idea—The Best of Poison Idea (2000)

Poison Idea—The Best of Poison Idea (2000)

Details

These songs were originally released on separate CDs except “Leaning to scream” which was 7″ vinyl only until now. Released on Taang! Records, 2000.

Band

Pick Your King EP (1983) — tracks 16–28

  • Jerry A (aka Jerry Lang)—Vocals
  • Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts—Guitar
  • Glen Estes—Bass
  • Dean Johnson—Drums

Kings of Punk (1986) — tracks 4–15
Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes EP (1984) — tracks 29–40

  • Jerry A (aka Jerry Lang)—Vocals
  • Tom “Pig Champion” Roberts—Guitar
  • Chris Tense—Bass
  • Dean Johnson—Drums

Learning Scream 7″ (1998) — tracks 1–3

  • Jerry A (aka Jerry Lang)—Vocals
  • Ian Miller—Guitar
  • Chris Tense—Bass
  • Dean Johnson—Drums

Tracks

  1. Learning to scream
  2. Another place
  3. Xerox frustrate
  4. Lifestyles
  5. Short fuse
  6. God not god
  7. Ugly American
  8. Subtract
  9. Cop an attitude
  10. Death wish kids
  11. Made to be broken
  12. Tormented imp
  13. One by one
  14. Out of the picture
  15. Untitled
  16. Think twice
  17. It’s an action
  18. Thing called progress
  19. In my headache
  20. Underage
  21. Self abuse
  22. Cult band
  23. Last one
  24. Pure hate
  25. Castration
  26. Reggae (I hate)
  27. Give it up
  28. Think fast
  29. A.A.
  30. Legalize freedom
  31. Cold comfort
  32. Typical
  33. Thorn in my side
  34. Laughing boy
  35. Rubber husband
  36. I gotta right (written by Iggy Pop)
  37. Rich get richer
  38. Don’t like it here
  39. Die on your knees
  40. Time to go

Review

Thanks mainly to Suicidal Tendencies’ early albums and The Misfits I have quite a soft spot for American hardcore punk. This compilation album from Portland, Oregon punks Poison Idea certainly doesn’t disappoint.

The album comprises their first three releases: Pick Your King 7″ EP (1983), Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes 12″ EP (1984), Kings of Punk (1986), plus the much later Learning to Scream 7″ EP (1998).

There is a marked difference in production quality between the earliest release (tracks 16–28) and the later releases surrounding it. But it doesn’t detract much from the enjoyment of the songs, although in general I do prefer the song-writing on the later tracks.

Poison Idea were seemingly influenced by southern Californian bands like Black Flag, Discharge, and The Germs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Poison Idea themselves then went on to influence the bands in neighbouring Washington state who launched the grunge sound a decade later, like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

There is a raw, energetic honesty to these songs; they are heavy but melodic and played with fervour. “Tormented imp” (track 12) for example (which is probably my favourite song on the compilation) has a wonderful stomp, and lyrics spat out with passion.

Conclusion

While I complained in my last review that many of the songs sounded much the same, for some reason it really doesn’t matter quite so much on this album. Perhaps it wasn’t the homogeneity that was the issue, perhaps it was the soul, the humanity, the passion. And by ‘eck, this album has plenty of that.

This album surprised me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I have. And ‘enjoy’ is definitely the word: I didn’t just like it, I enjoyed it. It’s definitely the best hardcore album I’ve listened to during this project.

Review score: 95%

 

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Details

Recorded by Michal Kacunel and Tomasz Gajewski at Sia Accoustics, New York City. Mixed by Pawel Marciniak at Manximum Studio, Lodz, Poland. Mastered by Alan Silverman at Arf! Digital, New York City. Released on Black Current Music, 2009.

Band

  • Maciej Kupiszewski—Vocals and rhythm guitars
  • Michal Kacunel—Clean vocals and lead guitar
  • Jakub Kupiszewski—Bass
  • Adam Romanowski—Drums

Tracks

  1. Nostalgia
  2. Egress
  3. New setting
  4. Stormcalling
  5. Adrift
  6. Thawing innocence
  7. Stare into the sun
  8. Canvas for departure

Review

My second (and final) Gwynbleidd recording to review in as many weeks.

First off: the artwork and packaging is brilliant. Travis Smith at Seem Pieces has done an amazing job. It’s earthy and dark, reminding me of some of the early Opeth artwork. The booklet continues in the same vein, with grainy photographs with lyrics printed over the top of them in white, typeset in a scratchy handwriting font.

This album follows the path of the first two tracks on Amaranthine (2006), which took a more death/black metal path (compared with the folk-metal offerings that made up the rest of that EP).

And it’s good: the songs twist and turn in a suitably progressive way, without becoming predictable or clichéd. The album opens with a re-recording of “Nostalgia” from the Amaranthine EP. The following track on that EP, “New settings”, also appears in a re-recorded form at track three. The rest of the album contains, as far as I can tell, new material.

The production on this album is great, which makes such a difference to an album. The guitars are powerful and meaty, with a fine crunch. The bass cuts through the mix, between guitars and drums.

In my opinion this is a much, much better recording than Amaranthine, but then by 2009 the band had about three years more experience, and the songs have had time to breathe and develop.

Track five, “Adrift” is the shortest on the album, at 2′ 45″. It’s mostly acoustic guitar, with a twiddly guitar solo over the top of it.

But it’s back to distortion and growling vocals for “Thawing innocence” and beyond. Though each song (in a true prog death metal way) transitions between dark and light, distorted and clean.

The final track “Canvas for departure” gradually grinds to an irregular, and mildly chaotic standstill to close the album.

Conclusion

I really like this album. It’s well written, well played, and the songs seem to discover themselves, naturally cutting a path that uncovers beautiful clean arpeggios alongside full-out death metal riffs.

I guess if you’re really upset that Opeth have taken a left turn into 70s-inspired prog rock, and you’re in need of a fix of good old fashioned progressive death/black metal then turn your sights on Gwynbleidd. Though, to be honest, you currently only have this album and the Amaranthine EP to chose from, and this album far outclasses the latter.

Review score: 95%

HookahTheFuzz—HookahTheFuzz (2010)

HookahTheFuzz—HookahTheFuzz (2010)

Hookah The Fuzz—Hookah The Fuzz (2010)

Details

Produced by Chris Fielding and HookahTheFuzz. Mastered by Chris Fielding. Recorded at Foel Studios. All music and lyrics written by HookahTheFuzz.

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Band

  • Si Jefferies—Vocals and rhythm guitar
  • Alexander Louis—Lead vocals
  • Roger Ash—Bass guitar
  • Harwood Shing—Keyboards
  • Ross Hawkings—Drums

Tracks

  1. (D)illusion
  2. The girl do  voodoo
  3. Skin and bones
  4. Preachers suck more (than a pro with a deadline)
  5. Camp refoogee
  6. Munchkin fever
  7. Addict
  8. Hang the hooker

Review

Let’s get the name out of the way first. The most immediate question is HookahTheFuzz (all one word, camelCase) or Hookah The Fuzz? Who knows, but I’ve gone with the way the band spells it on everything I’ve found online so far. The second question is: what does it even mean? I know that a hookah is a Persian device for vaporizing and smoking flavoured tobacco, but “[…] the Fuzz”?!

Anyway, this is one of those albums that I’ve put off reviewing simply so I could spend a few more days listening to it. That has to be a good sign, right?

Right! This is a great album. I’ve played this disc over and over and over again since I first listened to it.

The most obvious comparison is with the kings of prog metal themselves Dream Theater but there are other influences in there too. I can hear elements of artists as diverse as Lamb of God, Mike Patton (Faith No More) and Frank Zappa. Sometimes in the same song.

The album opens with a cute keyboard riff, like pan pipes. It’s most uncharacteristic of the rest of the album and quite misleading as an album opener. Disillusion indeed. But soon enough the guitars and vocals kick in and redeem the song. About 7′ 30″ there’s a fantastically moving guitar solo  that I could listen to again and again (and do!).

“The girl do voodoo” opens in a very Dream Theater ballad-like way: tinkling piano, laid back drums, arpeggios aplenty. But about a minute and a half later things start taking a more aggressive direction before the vocalist starts shouting “IT’S FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE FUCKING MORNING!” To be honest that jars with me. I’m not against swearing per se but even within the context of this song it just doesn’t seem necessary and doesn’t scan as well as “it’s four o’clock in the morning” would. But it’s a mild niggle as the rest of the song is great with proggy twists and turns aplenty. Five minutes in and there’s a tremendously fun chugging guitar riff that I can’t help but smile listening to.

“Skin and bones” opens with a ripping Lamb of God-like riff that satisfyingly resurfaces through out the track. Once the vocals being though the song sounds like a track from a Devin Townsend-era Steve Vai album. This is another superb track where the lyrics take on an instrumental quality of their own, with the shapes of the words being spit out adding to the colour and texture of the song.

“Preachers suck more…” is perhaps one of the most experimental and “out-there” prog tracks. It’s another meandering song in the key of Dream Theater.

The opening thirty seconds of “Camp refoogee” is great fun with triplets cutting across the main riff a couple of times. I can’t help nodding my head along in time. It’s perhaps one of my least songs on the album, but it is still interesting enough with enough dynamics and variety to prevent me from dismissing it entirely.

“Munchkin fever” begins quite aggressively but like snow being blown in the wind suddenly takes another direction for a minute. Just over halfway and an emotive guitar solo takes centre-stage before everything quietens down for some drums and keyboard mellowness. The closing minute is quite, quite beautiful.

“Addict” has a gentle, almost reflective beginning that reminded me a little of Pantera’s cover of the Black Sabbath tune “Planet Caravan”. The guitar bends around a minute in take the song to another level. Then oddly, around 3’00” the song takes a side step into reggae (?!) — now that’s progressive!

Album-closer “Hang the hooker” is pure Dream Theater. By now there aren’t too many surprises but the quality of both writing and playing is still high that it’s a delight to listen to.

Conclusion

This is another great example of don’t judge an album by its cover or indeed the band name. I’ve listened to this album more or less exclusively for two weeks now. I’m really impressed. More like this please.

Had it not been for a few niggles here and there, and a bit of repetition towards the end, then I’m sure I would have scored this with a full 10/10. As it is it gets a hearty 9.5.

Review score: 95%

Video

Halford—Metal God Essentials Vol.1

Halford—Metal God Essentials Vol.1 (2007)

Halford—Metal God Essentials Vol.1 (2007)

Details

Halford: Metal God Essentials Vol.1 (2007) features fifteen (15) of teh metal god’s most influential solo recordings, original demonstration recordings of Fight (1992) and Halford (1999) are featured alongside electrifying heavy metal tracks from the metal god’s recent releases.

Bands

Halford (tracks, 1–6, 9–12, 14, 15)

  • Rob Halford—Vocals
  • Mike Chiasciak—Guitar
  • Pat Lachman—Guitar
  • Roy Z—Guitar
  • Ray Riendeau—Bass
  • Bobby Jarzombek—Drums
  • Mike Davis—Drums (tracks 11, 12)

Fight (tracks 7, 8, 13)

  • Rob Halford—Vocals
  • Russ Parrish—Guitar
  • Brian Tilse—Guitar
  • Jay Jay—Bass
  • Scott Travis—Drums

Tracks

CD

All tracks by Halford, except where stated.

  1. Resurrection
  2. Made in hell
  3. Screaming in the dark
  4. Golgotha
  5. Silent screams (1999 demo)
  6. Crystal
  7. Into the pit (Fight)
  8. Nailed to the gun (Fight)
  9. Slow down
  10. Locked and loaded
  11. Forgotten generation
  12. Drop out
  13. War of words (Fight)
  14. Sun
  15. Trail of tears
  16. Hypocracy US mix

DVD

  1. Resurrection: behind the scenes
  2. Live insurrection: behind the scenes
  3. Made in hell
  4. Betrayal
  5. In the morning
  6. Silent screams
  7. Never satisfied
  8. Forgotten generation

Review

I was obviously aware of Rob Halford from his work with Judas Priest, but until a few years ago I hadn’t really listened to much Judas Priest — except for British Steel (1980) at my mate’s house when I was a teenager, and the occasional track on the Radio One Rock Show with Tommy Vance or Planet Rock — or any of Halford’s solo material, either as Fight or Halford.

A few years ago, I wandered into Fopp record store in St Andrews (sadly no longer there. The record store, I mean, not St Andrews!) one lunchtime and there were a couple of Halford CDs on sale for a ridiculously cheap price: Resurrection (2000) and Crucible (2002)—which I reviewed back in January.

I hurried back to my office, gave them a listen and was pleasantly surprised: I loved them!

This CD/DVD package with its stereotypical ‘metal god’ cover and name is a compilation of tracks from the two albums I have plus K5 – The War of Words Demos (2007) by Fight. Nothing from his industrial metal band featuring John 5, however: 2wo. The DVD contains a couple of short behind the scenes home-movies plus single videos and live footage.

The whole thing is as you would expect: screaming guitars, screaming vocals, crushing riffs, melodic and sensitive ballads in a way that only heavy metal bands can create, and plenty of leather and pointy chrome studs!

What more is there to say? It’s Rob Halford! It’s real metal!

Conclusion

As I already own most of the songs on this compilation I can’t see myself pulling this CD out too often, but I certainly recommend it as a great introduction to Halford’s solo work.

The lingering question I have about Metal God Essentials volume one, however, is… will there be a volume two?

Review score: 95%

Video