New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: metal rock

Slashing, Anthemic, Melodic Metal From Rising Steel

French band Rising Steel play ferociously melodic, shapeshifting mid-80s style European metal. The obvious influence is Iron Maiden. Like that foundational NWOBHM band, these guys typically take a symphonic approach beyond any kind of simple verse/chorus patterns or blues progressions. They like big crushing hooks, their guitar solos have fangs, and nobody in the band wastes notes. Their album Fight Them All is streaming at Spotify.

They open at a machinegunning pace with Mystic Voices, veering back and forth between Motorhead and Maiden, with what sounds like a recurrent Bloodrock reference: these guys obviously know their source material. Frontman Emmanuelson delivers the requisite Viking operatics over the two-guitar attack of Mat Heavy Jones and Tony Steel and the surprisingly lithe rhythm section of bassist Flo Dust and drummer Steel Zard.

The album’s title track has bleak, crunchy chromatic guitars over a catchy, relentlessly galloping pulse. Steel Hammer could be British oi punk legends the UK Subs with more menacing chords, at least until they take the song halfspeed, and then out with a classic Maiden-ish charge.

They slow things down for a little while with Blackheart, but don’t hold back on the doomy chromatics. The stampede continues with Savage and segues with a swirl into the icily macabre Gloomy World, a surreal mashup of Maiden, Sabbath and piledriver postrock.

Malefice has a straightforward vintage Metallica drive, while Metal Nation is the album’s thrashiest number, and also one of its angriest ones, a furious call for unity against repression.

It’s surprising how few bands have ever done a song called Pussy: count Rising Steel among the few and the proud. Turns out that they don’t even use the word in this unexpectedly lighthearted party anthem.

They go back to thrashy punkmetal with Led By Judas and wind up the album on more of a Metallica style note with the steady, rampaging Master Control. Darkly anthemic heavy music doesn’t get much more memorable than this in 2020.

Creepy, Anthemic, Relevant Metal From Semblant

Murder of Crows, the first track on Brazilian band Semblant’s new album Obscura explodes out of a creepy minor-key intro from keyboardist J. Augusto. Drummer Thor Sikora gets his twin kick pedals going behind the big crescendoing chorus, with layers and layers of digital reverb on the guitars – that’s Sol Perez and Juliano Ribeiro getting into a tantalizingly brief, machinegunning duel. These guys want you to listen to the rest of the record, whether at their youtube channel or elsewhere.

The persistent dichotomy here is between soaring frontwoman Mizuho Lin and Sergio Mazul’s guttural death-metal roar. The songcraft is catchy and anthemic, usually based on upward waves from verse to chorus, as in the rapidfire intensity of Left Behind, a relentless minor-key punk-metal number.

Dethrone the Gods, Control the Masters, Legacy of Blood is much the same: somebody sends a scream into the stratosphere and signals a guitar solo over the classical synth and ominously ascending firestorm. “The number of unconfirmed deaths is unknown…the government declares a state of emergency.” Sound familiar?

Techy, blippy synth introduces the venomous guitars and gritty bass of Mere Shadow, set in an in an increasingly familiar dystopia where “The walls are closed down, separating me from the emptiness unfolding,” as Lin wails.

Likewise, the band explode into the chorus of Porcelain, an ominously lingering anthem in 6/8 time. They shift up the rhythm for The Hunter, the Hunger, angel versus devil, then pick up the pace with Wasteland its menacing, allusively Middle Eastern guitar break. They hit Barely Breathing just as hard, although it could have been a new wave-era hit if you switched out the guitar roar for a synth and left the vocals to Lin.  Remember Ninth House’s crushing cover of Real Life’s Send Me an Angel?

The demon/angel tension reaches a peak in the murderously crescendoing, rapidfire Wallachia. A tortured blues intro foreshadows the album’s best and most dynamic, classically-influenced anthem, Daydream Tragedy, Lin’s avenger vocals finally taking over for good. The album peaks out at the end with Insomnia, a grimly strutting chromatic assault: it looks like the bad guys win this time. 

An Unlikely Comeback by an Unlikely Proto-Metal Band

Sometimes being snarky comes back to bite you in the ass.

On face value, the latest release by Uriah Heep, Living the Dream – which hit the web a couple of years ago and is still streaming at Spotify – screams out for snark. They only have one remaining member from the original late 60s lineup: guitarist Mick Box. Ken Hensley, whose smoky organ gave the British proto-metal band their signature sound, fled the coop forty years ago. The current lineup still includes a keyboard, but what compelling reason could possibly exist for keeping track of what they might be up to?

You know what? If you leave out the embarrassments that open and close the record, what’s in between actually isn’t bad.

They’ve kept the roto organ, but have also updated their sound to reflect that they know who Genesis are, and also Iron Maiden. Those looking for the original band’s haphazard, sledgehammer take on acid blues will be disappointed, but fans of workmanlike, thoughtfully assembled melodic metal from the 80s and beyond won’t. Box’s guitar solo at the end of the third track, Take Away My Soul is inspired and genuinely evil at the end. He also wails tantalizingly to wind up the song after that.

The Genesis quote in track six is hilarious. Frontman Bernie Shaw isn’t Ronnie James Dio, but the band are game and have managed to forge a new identity rather than living in a cheesy nostalgia time warp. Good for them.

Lusciously Dark Heavy Psychedelia From Solace

For more than two decades, Solace have bridged the gap between doom metal, art-rock and stoner boogie as well as any other band on the planet. There’s an awful lot going on in their songs, way beyond any kind of simple verse/chorus pattern. Just when things start to look grimmest, they like to pick up the pace, with lots of false endings. Their latest album The Brink is streaming at Bandcamp.

They get off to an epic start with Breaker of the Way, the punchy riff-rock of the verse rising to a macabre peak infused with frontman Justin Goins’ smoky organ on the chorus. The doublespeed interlude midway through is a welcome jolt of extra fight-or-flight.

Desert Coffin is slow and loopy, until the chromatic crush of the chorus kicks in: there’s no predicting Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels’ funny cop/evil cop twin guitar solo midway through. Dead Sailor’s Dream comes across as a cruel riff-rock imitation of a sea chantey, with distant echoes of both Sabbath and Hendrix.

The anti-conformity anthem Waste People is so savagely catchy that you don’t realize that it’s mostly just one chord, until they finally reach a nebulous art-rock chorus. Are they going to to doublespeed for the guitar duel afterward? Not this time.

The whole band – guitars, organ, Rob Hultz’s bass and Tim Schoenleber’s drums – lock in on the big, menacing chromatic riff that anchors The Light Is a Lie, then the stampede finally begins. The twin-guitar attack and sheer catchiness of Crushing Black bring it closer to prime Iron Maiden than most anything else here.

Bird of Ill Omen, built around a chilling Balkan-tinged riff, is their Powerslave. It isn’t just the best song on the album, it’s one of the best songs of the year, capped off with a long, searing twin guitar solo. They go back to sea chantey territory, mashing it up with brooding 19th century gospel, for the mostly acoustic interlude Shadows Fade.

That sets up the album’s title track and its bludgeoning blues riffage: it could be a classic early 70s Blue Oyster Cult epic with crunchier guitars. Finally, five and a half minutes in, we get a scream from Goins! The band take a detour toward brisk vintage Judas Priest with Until the Last Dog Is Hung and reprise Dead Sailor’s Dream with a much more unhinged sway to close the record: the ending is too good to give away. Watch for this on the best albums of the year page if we make it that far.

Iron Rider Play Sludgy Sounds to Get Lost In

Stoner metal band Iron Rider’s album Wondering If You’re in Hell By Now is streaming at Bandcamp. It’s basically a heavy metal sonata, a simple, crushing theme and variations. It’s also especially sludgy: the bass will rattle your walls if you have something other than a phone to play this on and you turn it up loud enough.

Julian Agneta’s distorted, downtuned bass pushes the opening instrumental, I’ll Find You, from sludgy, hypnotic riff-rock to a hazy boogie. They don’t bother to budge out of that same key until the slowly swaying Drifter is more than half over: nice long scream from frontman/guitarist Mark Grillo after the first verse!

He takes the distortion off for the forlorn intro to An Old Low, then brings it back when the crackling bass enters the picture and completely dominates the lows: the momentary sheets of guitar distortion that rip the sound from an unexpectedly quiet, stygian interlude are a sweet touch.

They segue from there into the ominous instrumental Bonfire. Then they pick up the pace with drummer Michael Livathinopoulos’ surprisingly spring-loaded groove in Beg, its doomy interludes and Iommi-ish guitar multitracks. There’s another segue into the album’s final, best and most gloomily chromatic cut, Justice. In a style where players sometimes noodle aimlessly, this band’s incisive riffage and interesting textures – what the hell is that wah they’re running the guitar through, for example? – are a breath of fresh air.

Perchta Mash Up Ancient Brooding Tyrolean Themes With a Heavy Rock Assault

Austrian band Perchta sound like no other group in the world, blending haunting, otherworldly, ancient Tyrolean folk themes into their heavy, mysterious assault, part art-rock, part black metal, part thrash. Their frontwoman takes her name, and the band’s, from a Juno-like pagan goddess revered in antiquity as a protector of the group’s home turf in the rugged, mountainous northern part of the country. Boomy standup drum, wood flute and a rippling zither-like instrument are just as likely to appear in their songs along with crushing, multitracked guitars and co-leader Fabio D’Amore’s growling bass. Their latest album Utang – streaming at Bandcamp – is available on both black and white vinyl.

The album’s instrumental intro sets the stage: spare, ominous bits of melody from the zither mingle within hovering, static-flicked electronic ambience. The first track, Erdn is a blast of thrash with icy, swirling dreampop-inflected guitar (uncredited at the Bandcamp page) and a trio of brief acoustic interludes over gritty, trebly bass.

The band’s frontwoman whispers in Tyrolean dialect over sparse, rainy-day zither in Långs, then the band work tensely pulsing chromatics in Åtem, which comes across as an amped-up take on a medieval peasant work song.

The band follow Summa, a brief, anguished zither-infused invocation with Gluat, juxtaposing a rainswept folk theme with pounding, atmospheric, menacing chromatic guitar crunch.

They revert to skeletal, ominous zither folk with Herest, a good launching pad for the album’s epic centerpiece, Wåssa. It’s the only track on the album where the intricately fingerpicked acoustic intro carries over into the raging electric rock that follows, in this case a slow, menacing, practically ten-minute anthem.

From there they segue into Winta, another invocation whose enveloping outro brings the album full circle. The bonus cd package includes acoustic versions of Gluat and Wåssa, neither of which came with the promo for the record. The world needs more disquietingly individualistic bands like this.

Iconic Heavy Psychedelic Band Revisit Deep Cuts With Surprising Results

Can you imagine if Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper made its debut on corporate radio in 2020? The politically correct crowd would crash Instagram with all their outraged selfie vids. “I can’t believe you’d be so irresponsible as to play a song that ADVOCATES TEEN SUICIDE!!!!!”

The band, of course, leave it open to multiple interpretations: it could just as easily be about drugs..or a love song, heh heh heh. And it’s a far cry from their best work: for that, you need to dig into their first four records. Over that initial span of releases, there is no other act in the history of rock music who were better.

Not the Stones, who weren’t ready for prime time. Not the Beatles, although they get an asterisk because their manager and record label held them back. Not the Dream Syndicate (who got screwed even worse by their label), the Velvets (who couldn’t pull their shit together, basically), the Stooges (who learned on the fly), Pink Floyd (who had to regroup after their bandleader self-destructed), the Dead Kennedys (whose second album was awful), David Bowie (who got off to a bad start) or Richard Thompson (ever try listening to Henry the Human Fly?). And as revolutionary and brilliant as the first four albums by Elvis Costello, the Jam, the Clash, X, Parliament/Funkadelic and several others are, Blue Oyster Cult’s classic early stuff is just as strong, and smart, and sometimes a lot funnier.

So why would this blog cover something as crazy as the band’s new recording, a 40th anniversary celebration of their uneven 1976 Agents of Fortune album, recorded live in concert in 2016 and streaming at Spotify? Because it’s just plain preposterous. Right off the bat, this isn’t even the same band that made the original: the Bouchard brothers’ rhythm section disintegrated back in the 80s, and we lost the great Allen Lanier a couple of decades later. Still, this is actually an improvement on the original!

Frontman/guitarist Eric Bloom, once a fine, clear-voice singer, doesn’t do much more than rasp these days. But lead guitarist Buck Dharma still has his chops here, and the replacements are clearly psyched to play a lot of material that these days falls into the deep-cuts category. There’s snap to the bass, a leadfoot groove but a groove nonetheless from the drums, and a lot of swirly organ.

They open with This Ain’t the Summer of Love, a riffy anti-hippie anthem that isn’t much more than rehashed Stones….but they seem to be having fun with it. They can’t do much with True Confessions, an ill-advised attempt at mashing up that sound with doo-woppy soul. Although Bloom can’t hit the high notes in the ominously circling hit single, and the band must be sick to death of it, they manage not to phone it in. “Forty thousand men and women coming every day!” State of the world, 2020, huh?

This edition of the band’s take of the “classic rock” radio staple E.T.I. (Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) isn’t as quite as offhandedly macabre as the original, but it still has a gleefully sinister ring. The Revenge of Vera Gemini – which original keyboardist Lanier co-wrote with his girlfriend at the time, Patti Smith – is heavier and a lot more menacing.

Dharma’s icy chromatics can’t quite elevate Sinful Love above the level of generically strutting powerpop. Likewise, Tattoo Vampire is a second-rate Led Zep ripoff. Morning Final, a haphazard attempt to blend Lou Reed urban noir and latin soul as the Stones did it on Sticky Fingers, is so bizarre it’s pretty cool.

From there the band segue into Tenderloin: disco-pop was not their forte. They wind up the record, and the show, with Debbie Denise: what an understatedly bittersweet, profoundly Lynchian pop song! A sparse audience cheer enthusiastically afterward.

Anthemic Minor Key Grand Guignol From Visionatica

German band Visionatica play dark, distantly Romany-influenced melodic metal. Productionwise, their sound is closer to Trans-Siberian Orchestra than, say, Gogol Bordello or Bad Buka although the songs’ edge and intensity are better suited to European stadiums than American casinos. Their irresistibly anthemic, deftly orchestrated latest album Enigma Fire is streaming at Spotify.

They open with a mutedly suspenseful, lushly orchestrated Romany anthem, Amari Sudbina Kali and follow with Pharao, a catchy minor-key new wave hit disguised with Gerhard Spanner’s thumping double-bass drum hits, a web of guitar tapping from Manuel Buhl, and gusty strings. Frontwoman Tamara Amedova has an unusually nuanced, plaintive high soprano, not what you usually find in heavy music.

Harp and strings provide a delicate intro for Fear and its catchy chromatics: “When you go overboard, do not be afraid to drop,”Amedova insists: her English is decent, although sometimes she stresses the wrong syllable.

Roxana the Great, a shout-out to a warrior-goddess archetype, has muted doom metal chromatics and some strange poetics: “He was the king of the greatest queen,” ok, homegirl, whatever you say. It’s easy to imagine the album’s crunchiest track, Dance of Fire as a Balkan brass number, at least until the strings make a tornado around Amedova’s voice.

With a symphonic opening that could be Dvorak, To the Fallen Roma is a vengeful, redemptive salute to resilience and resistance against Nazis and the kind of racism that’s still all too rampant in parts of Europe.

Incomplete, a mythologically-inspired ballad, has echoes of trip-hop and a solo that might be a cello, or just a clever electronic analogue. Secrets of the Ancestors has lush echoes of ELO…and Spinal Tap. The final cut is Rise From the Ashes, another new wave hit in heavy disguise that brings the album full circle. Raise your fist, forefinger, pinky and a glass of rakia to this.

Venomously Elegant Dark Sounds From Doomstress

One of the most unexpectedly welcome trends in heavy music over the last few years is that more and more individualistic women are fronting doom metal bands. Doomstress are one of the best. Their sound is slinkier than most bands in that netherworld can typically conjure, and frontwoman/bassist Alexis Hollada doesn’t just wail at the top of her lungs. If you like slashing minor keys, haunting heavy sounds and twin guitar solos, Doomstress are waiting for you. Their debut album Sleep Among the Dead is streaming at Bandcamp.

The album’s opening track, Bitter Plea, is a galloping southwestern gothic-tinged groove. “There’s no escaping the past,’ Hollada sings, guitarist Brandon Johnson multitracking hazy leads over minor-key crunch punctuated by drummer Tomasz Scull’s heavy foot.

The second track, Burning Lotus is the album’s most vintage Sabbath-influencd track, although it’s faster than most of that band’s iconic songs. Johnson multitracks ominously lingering acoustic and electric leads over Hollada’s elegant blend of chords and single-note lines as the Dreaming Spider gets underway, following a trickily rhythmic, subtly venomous upward drive.

”You’ve been deceived,” Hollada snarls in the shapeshifting Your God Is Blind, a slap upside the head of warmongering religious nuts, rising to  a spine-tingling outro. The slow, majestic Bones and Rust continues that vengeful theme, Johnson’s crunch and snarl in both channels. “Shallow breath, but the mouth is wide,” Hollada taunts.

The album’s most epic track, Apathetic Existence has spacerock vastness, a shout-out to a classic Sabbath theme and a raised middle finger to the “crumbling mechanisms of power.” The final cut is the title track , a sadistic, grand guignol take on ba-BUMP noir cabaret. No wasted notes or silly, florid guitar solos, just relentless anger and cynicism in these classy minor key anthems. May this band last long enough to put out another great album before it all comes crashing down.

A Smoky, Careening Free Download From Heavy Psychedelic Band Salem’s Bend

Today’s Halloween month installment is Cold Hand Live, a free ep download by LA heavy psychedelic power trio Salem’s Bend. There are just two tracks here. The first is the nine-minute Cold Hand, a slowly swaying doom theme in 6/8 time, guitarist Bobby Parker’s muffled vocals over Kevin Schofield’s bass and Zach Huling’s drums. It doesn’t take long before Parker picks up with a jagged, Hendrix-inspired attack. Then Schofield hits his distortion pedal; Parker takes the song from spare and hypnotic, through a brief salute to classic Sabbath to a screaming, bleeding solo out.

The second track is Winter Sunn, with its suspenseful pulse, sharply executed 70s stoner riffs and comet-trail guitar solos. Grab this while you can.