New York Music Daily

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Tag: ripple music

Mothership: Tuneful Texas Metal That Doesn’t Waste Notes

Imagine a metal band that doesn’t waste notes or get self-indulgent. Hard to believe, but that’s Texas power trio Mothership, whose self-titled debut album is out today from Ripple Music. In a style where so many acts either ape the classics or the flavor du jour, it’s refreshing to hear a band who have an instantly recognizable sound, one that draws on 40 rich years of heavy rock but isn’t reverential about it. There’s plenty of post-Sabbath, Orange Goblin-ish chromatic riffage, but without the death-rattle vocals. It’s a compliment to say that there actually a couple of tracks here that could have been radio hits back in the 70s, when a couple of obvious reference points, Blue Oyster Cult and Molly Hatchet were peaking. Guitarist Kelley Juett is the real deal, capable of rapidfire Adrian Smith/Dave Murray runs but more likely to bend notes into the ozone and build a tune like Buck Dharma, or go surrealistically screaming in the same vein as Nektar’s Roye Albrighton. Juett’s bassist brother Kyle and drummer Judge Smith keep it low to the ground with a cast-iron swing, without cluttering the arrangements.

The opening instrumental, Hallucination, has a long intro that nicks Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine before the first  fuzztone riff kicks in, multitracked bluesmetal  riffage with a neat Hendrix allusion kicking off a doublespeed stampede. Cosmic Rain is heavy Texas boogie as BOC might have done it – think Buck’s Boogie, but more creepy and sludgy, the bass kicking off a Maidenesque interlude that finally gets an overamped wah guitar solo.

City Nights motors along with a vintage Molly Hatchet groove, sounding straight out of 1978, with a wickedly haphazard guitar solo running down the scale and obliterating everything in its path. From there they segue into Angel of Death and its Motorhead-meets-BOC assault.

Win or Lose is not the Sham 69 classic but an original, sort of the Kinks’ Superman as Sabbath might have done it and a clinic in good, smart, heavy guitar: slurry chromatic riffage, East Coast boogie, nonchalantly maniacal tremolo-picking and acid blues. Elenin works a fast/slow Maiden dynamic for all it’s worth, through a squalling, psychedelic end-of-the-world scenario.

Eagle Soars blends Texas boogie and Sabbath into a crunchy, menacing roar. The album ends with Lunar Master, a hallucinatory biker epic that nicks the long interlude from Maiden’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, right down to the tasty bass solo and a zillion menacing, echoey layers of guitars as the song rises again. The vinyl record (!!!) and cd each come with a download card and a poster; you’ll have to supply your own hooch. And you don’t have to be a metalhead to like this: much as it’s loud and trippy, it’s also catchy as hell. Let’s ask the devil to send them to New York and book them into St. Vitus.

Mos Generator’s Nomads: A Clinic in Heavy Rock

Lying down, headphones blasting in the dim light of a laptop, one word kept coming to mind, over and over: excellent. That’s Pacific Northwest metal legends Mos Generator’s new album Nomads, their first in five years. Maybe due to frontman/guitarist Tony Reed’s involvement with Stone Axe, this one has a lot less in common with Mos Generator’s artsy, apocalyptic 2005 masterpiece The Late Great Planet Earth than it does with their thunderous but nimble early-zeros roots. Like innumerable stoner metal acts, Mos Generator looks back to early Sabbath, but what differentiates them from all the imitators is their songwriting. Hell, Sabbath had a top 40 hit: heavy as that band’s songs were, they were catchy, and Mos Generator shares that gift for melody. The songs here have the kind of weight you find at the ass end of the period table, but aside from a couple of tracks toward the end of the album that have tongue-in-cheek power-ballad interludes, there’s nothing even remotely pop about them.

Reed has been a fine player for a long time; he can shred with anybody, but what makes him different is that he usually doesn’t. His solos are about making a point, hitting a phrase head-on for maximum impact, taking a crescendo over the cliff so it takes out a whole village of idiots when it lands rather than self-destructing halfway down. Case in point: the fourth track here, Step Up. Evil bleeding chromatics give way to a brontosaurus stomp as Scooter Haslip’s melodic bass rises ominously. Reed hits his fuzztone pedal and then goes into some searing blues. They run another verse, then he takes off, savagely but also judicious and bluesy, high above the lush, multitracked layers of roar. And then he suddenly hits a supersonic flurry of tapping that instantly takes the energy level into the red. It’s the only time on the album he does it. Compare that with, say, Yngwie Malmsteen.

The first couple of tracks, Cosmic Ark and Lonely One Kenobi, are a clinic in how to build a song, heavy riffage anchoring a constant shift in tones and timbres: lingering acidic flange lines, aching Jimmy Page vibrato, searing upper-register icepick attacks like Buck Dharma on…hmmmm….take a guess. The third track, Torches, looks back to British bands like Nazareth with its sludgy thump and Stonehenge lyrics. Solar Angels is a feast of smoldering, screaming, burning textures, again evoking Blue Oyster Cult at their most confrontationally direct. Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson stand out most impressively on the early Maiden-flavored For Your Blood, with its growly Steve Harris gallop giving off noxious fumes underneath Reed’s doubletracked solo.

Finally, at the end of the album, the band revisits the mind-warping majesty of The Late Great Planet Earth with This Is the Gift of Nature, an apocalyptic epic full of tricky polyrhythms and dark bluesfunk-tinted passages that echo bands like Rare Earth and the Isley Bros. – but from the bottom of a well, darkly. The only thing anybody could possibly want after this is a reissue of that 2005 album – which is coming, along with this one, from Ripple Music. Lots of stuff, audio and video, up at their site.

Mighty High’s New Album: Still Smoking

The follow-up to Brooklyn band Mighty High’s hilariously classic, satirical Mighty High in Drug City, from 2008, is hardly what you might expect. That one stumbled with a spot-on wooziness through a stoner universe populated by pilfered Ted Nugent riffs and every drug ever invented – as a Brooklyn counterpart to This Is Spinal Tap, it’s priceless. Mighty High’s latest album, Legalize Tre Bags – actually, let’s not stop at the little ones, let’s legalize ‘em all! – is available on green vinyl (duh) from Ripple Music along with a download card for all the vinyl virgins. At heart, this is a punk rock record, beginning with I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes, which from its cruel intro and the slurry Motorhead riffs the band leaps into afterward is sadly over in just a minute and sixteen seconds. Despite their metal cred, guitarists Chris “Woody” MacDermott and Kevin Overdose, bassist Matt “Labatts” Santoro and drummer Jesse D’Stills have a lot in common with the Dead Kennedys: they like short songs.

Mooche, a surprisingly straight-up punk tune, chronicles the ultimate freeloader weedhead who won’t get high on his own supply unless you’re paying for it – and if you’re going with all the way up to 241st St. in the Bronx to score with him, he wants an extra hit! The Ram, a riff-rocking tribute to “25 years of toking…I won’t quit til I take my last hit, kill off what’s left of my mind” has a twin guitar solo and then a Spinal Tap hammer-on attack. Speedcreep goes for a blend of hardcore and Motorhead, with an amusing halfspeed interlude; Tokin’ and Strokin’ has a cowbell intro and a musical joke that’s painfully obvious but still too funny to give away here. Cheap Beer, Dirt Weed shows you how much mileage you can get out of one chord and a couple of sticky riffs: “The perfect high is in my reach,” the poor guy stuck in the industrial wasteland of New Rochelle, New York insists. Likewise, Come On! I’m Holdin’, a tribute to the superior weed you find in Brooklyn, at least compared to “That weak shit in Washington Square, I had to live and learn!”

They go back to UK Subs-style punk for Drug War – “Your weed against mine!” – complete with sampled Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush “quotes” to underscore their point. Then the mockery kicks in, first with Loaded Loaded, a Molly Hatchet spoof, then the longest track here, Chemical Warpigs, an irresistible if completely over-the-top mashup of Slayer’s Chemical Warfare and Sabbath’s War Pigs. The album ends with High on the Cross, a twistedly spot-on contemplation of the ultimate drug – and the most lethal one – religion. If you like New York-centric weed jokes (“High Street/Brooklyn Bridge, Jay Street is next”), funny songs that make fun of heavy metal cliches, and purist guitar sonics – the production here is bubonically good – you’ll love this album. Can you listen to it without being high? Yes. Well, make that affirmative: as Mighty High wants you to know, Yes sucks!

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