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%

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The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

Details

Recorded at Red Bull Studios, Santa Monica, California, USA, and Johnny Yuma Recording at Henson Studios, Hollywood, California, USA. Recorded by Jesse E String and Nicolas Essig. Produced by Leonard Simone and Jesse E String. Mixed by Jesse E String. Mastered by Michael Verdick.

Wikipedia

Band

  • Nathan Ells—Vocals
  • Dean Herrera—Guitars
  • Andrew Tapley—Guitars
  • Brett Powell—Drums and percussion
  • Sean Leonard—Piano, B3, Mellatron and Prophet 5

All bass by Sean Hurley except “Breathing life into devices” by Dean Herrera and Sean Hurley; “Metanoia” by Dean Herrera.

Tracks

  1. A violent strike
  2. Procession of the fates
  3. Breathing life into devices
  4. The world is a tomb
  5. Metanoia
  6. The path
  7. Echoes of the spirit
  8. Calm in the chaos
  9. Counting down the days
  10. A dead world at sunrise (additional vocals by Shenkar)

Review

The Human Abstract are yet another band that I’d never heard of. Formed in Los Angeles, California in 2004 they disbanded in 2011 having released three albums and an EP; “Midheaven” was their second release.

The band seemingly took their name from the title of a William Blake poem published in 1794 in Songs of Experience.

I threw the album on one evening while I was cracking on with some other work and gave it a half listen. It was more melodic and progressive than I was expecting.

Listening to it again in the car a day or two later I found myself caught between two opinions of the album. On one hand I liked the progressive nature of the songs as they wandered where they willed, but there is a lot of post-nu-metal shouty-style rawk that I really don’t connect with.

But fear not, I discovered that if I just keep listening then the progressive element of each song comes to the rescue and quickly whisks the song in another direction.

“A violent strike”, the opening song is a case in point. There must be two or three moments that I really don’t like and just as I’m reaching for the fast-forward button the song morphs and heads in another direction.

Curiously, “Breathing life into devices” (track 3) has an almost pop feel, verging towards gospel and pseudo rap about two thirds of the way through. Not exactly my cup of tea (although I don’t drink tea) but I can appreciate what they did.

There are a few, I guess power ballads might be the best term on this album. “This world is a tomb” is the first. It’s a beautiful song with plenty of piano. “Calm in the chaos” is the second, which rides along an acoustic guitar chord progression for the most part before twisting into an almost mathcore riff. The last is the final track, “A dead world at sunrise” which quietly brings the album to a close.

Conclusion

There are plenty of things for me to like on this album. But then there are enough elements that jar with me to not fully embrace this album as a classic. But it’s not them, it’s me. Definitely a keeper, though. Next…!

Review score: 80%

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum—Grand Opening and Closing (2001)

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum—Grand Opening and Closing Ceremony (2001)

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum—Grand Opening and Closing Ceremony (2001)

About

“Much of this music was written collectively, with song ideas arising out of group improvisations and subject to merciless revision by all Museum members.”

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Dan Rathbun, Polymorph Recording, Oakland, CA. 1999-2001. Produced by Dan Rathbun and the MUSEUM. Flinch & More Time recorded 2006, Ibid. Released on The End Records, 2001. Reprint and expansion, 2006.

Band

  • Matthias Bossi: Drums, vocals and percussion on “Flinch”, “More time”, “Powerless (live)”
  • Nils Frykdahl: Guitars (6 and 12 string), Tibetan bells, autoharp, voice
  • Frank Grau: Drums on “The stain”
  • Carla Kihlstedt: Electric violin, percussion guitar, autoharp, pump organ, voice
  • Micahel Mellender: Percussion, tangularium, lever, wheel, pancreas (electric), guitar on “Flinch”, “More time”, “Powerless (live)”
  • Dan Rathbun: Bass guitar, slide-piano log9, pedal-action wiggler, thing, autoharp, voice
  • Dave Shamrock: Drums, piano
  • Moe! Staiano: Percussion8, metal, pressure-cap marimba, spring, spring-nail guitar, popping turtle, food containers, tympani

Tracks

  1. Sleep is wrong
  2. Ambugaton
  3. Ablutions
  4. 1997 (tonight we’re gonna party like it’s…)
  5. The miniature
  6. Powerless
  7. The stain
  8. Sleepytime
  9. Sunflower
  10. More time
  11. Flinch
  12. Powerless (live 01/06/06)

Review

The unlikely-sounding Sleepytime Gorillia Museum is another band that I’d never heard of, let alone heard. But the more I listened to them, and the more I found out about them, the more I liked.

Formed in 1999 in California, from members of Idiot Flesh and Charming Hostess, they took their name from a “museum of the future” which was owned and operated by a group of artists who called themselves the Sleepytime Gorilla Press. Their first performance, according to the history page on their website, was to “a single banana slug (Ariolimax dolichophallus). The following night’s performance was their first to a human audience.” What’s not to like?

When I listened to the album for the first time last week my immediate response was: at last! Something different and interesting. This isn’t a particularly easy record to listen to. It’s not something to put on in the background to quietly set the mood. Unless, of course, the mood you are looking for is creepy mediaeval dungeon filled with mythical and schizophrenic creatures of doom and despair.

The music sounds to me like the complete works of Frank Zappa, Hedningarna, Faith No More, Mike Patton, TomahawkVoivod, Stravinsky, and Penderecki have been dropped into a wood-chipper and fashioned into something strange and incredible. It is both delicate and heavy; it is in parts beautiful and ugly; there is harmony and dischord; there is hope and despair. I love it.

The album opens very quietly, a little percussion here, a few guitar hammer-ons there, and a guttural mumbling that wouldn’t be out of place on a Tomahawk track. This segues into a Scandinavian-esque, Hedningarna-like riff which takes a left turn into an industrial pounding jack-hammer kind of vibe with growling, plodding vocals. Then suddenly quiet. Close-harmony group vocal. Riff reprise… this is crazy stuff. It demands your attention.

My favourite track of this album is track two, “Ambugaton” which also opens subtly with a plinky, atonic arpeggio that slowly, slowly grows over the next three minutes into a heavy riff that must be so fun to play. Again, this has elements of Faith No More and Tomahawk, which is probably why I like it so much.

“1997 (tonight we’re going to party like it’s…)” runs a close second for me for best song of the album. It certainly has more lyrics, which isn’t hard as “Ambugaton” has only one: “Ambugaton!”

Conclusion

This is a fabulous, experimental album with its feet in many genres. I loved listening to it the first time through. Like I said, I found it interesting and exciting. I’ve loved it more and more as I’ve listened to it again and again.

I’m certain that I’m not finished with it yet. I fully expect it to grow on me more and more. And now I want to hear their other work too. Maybe I could get a couple of banana slugs in and invite them over for a house concert.

Review score: 95%

Video

16 — Curves that Kick (1993)

16 — Curves that Kick (1993)

16 — Curves that Kick (1993)

Details

Recorded at Double Time Studios, San Diego between February – April 1993. Originally released on Pushead’s label “Bacteria Sour”; re-released on Relapse Records.

Track listing

  1. Curves That Kick
  2. Chum
  3. Resin
  4. Sedatives
  5. Grandpa’s Chair
  6. Apostrophe
  7. Nova
  8. Amish
  9. Mr Mouse
  10. Joe the Cat
  11. Hate
  12. Doorprize

Review

Curves That Kick was the debut album by Los Angeles’ band 16 who, if you like neat labels, fall under the sludge metal category, a fusion of doom and hardcore punk.

16, who write their name on album covers as -(16)-, are another band that I’d never heard of before, but now thanks to this experiment I now have three albums of theirs — Drop Out (1996), Bridges to Burn (2009) and this earlier one, Curves That Kick (1993). And I’m glad I do because from the opening riffs of this album I had a feeling that I’d like it.

On my first listening to the whole album it sounded like a fusion of Helmet, Bleach-era Nirvana, lesser-known San Francisco band Less and even elements of Godflesh. Which to my ears is a winning combination.

There are no unnecessary guitar solos… in fact, without listening to the album again, I don’t remember there being any traditional guitar solos, only overdubbed guitar parts that add texture and depth to the songs.

The songs definitely carry a Helmet-like vibe to them, particularly songs like “Amish”, Hate”, and album-opener “Curves That Kick” with a growling bass tone and twisted, stop-start guitar riffs that relentlessly plough through the songs like slabs of metal. Track 5 “Grandpa’s Chair”, on the other hand, could appear quite seamlessly on just about any later Godflesh album.

That said 16 don’t sound like they are trying to be a Helmet tribute band. They do bring something of their own to the music.

Conclusion

I’m very much looking forward to listening to the other two 16 albums, if this is anything to go by. A very welcome addition to my collection.

Review score: 95%