New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: motorhead

Icon of Sin Put an Expertly Cynical, Smart Update on a Classic Metal Sound

Brazilian band Icon of Sin play a surreal blend of gritty, anthemic late 70s acid rock and early 80s British metal. They take the spirit of early Iron Maiden to its logical conclusion, but with more original and tuneful songcraft than most heavy riff acts. Frontman Raphael Mendes sings in English, in an operatic Bruce Dickinson baritone with a sinister wink. Beyond the drama, it’s not often obvious what he’s singing about, adding to the surrealistic factor. Bassist Caio Vidal plays with a Steve Harris snap, but closer to the ground. Likewise, drummer CJ Dubiella keeps the drive straight-ahead and uncluttered. Guitarists Sol Perez and Mateus Cantaleãno play catchy, anthemic changes with soloing that’s flashy enough to draw some blood but not so much that it becomes a cartoon. Their new album, streaming at Spotify, is one of the first rock records so far with the guts to tackle the ugly consequences of the lockdown, even if they do that opaquely.

They open with their brisk, propulsive theme song: hey, if you’re going to sin, you might as well do it iconically. The second track, Road Rage is an even harder-charging, thrashy number: run to the hills in your tricked-out Toyota. The guitar chords grow fangs but get even catchier in Shadow Dancer, which seems to be a celebration of all the things that can only be found when the sun goes down.

Unholy Battleground is a heavy biker rock tune in a Death Wheelers vein, peaking out with a tasty, bluesy solo: a war-on-terror critique, maybe. Nightbreed is just as grimly anthemic, a big backbeat tune with tinges of 80s goth.

Is the lickety-split, Motorhead-inspired Virtual Empire a cynical commentary on the lockdowners’ attempt to take all human interaction online, where they can spy on you 24/7, Chinese Communist style? It would seem so. The band keep things in the here and now with the even more corrosive Pandemic Euphoria, which could be the UK Subs at the peak of their metal phase. The album’s best and most epic track is Clouds Over Gotham, shifting between gentle, early Genesis-tinged interludes, a fullscale stampede and nightmarish symphonic angst…but if Mendes’ prophecy comes true, we will rise again!

Arcade Generation is a steady, midtempo metal take on Stiv Bators’ old observation about how video games train the kids for war. The band turn Japanese for a moment in The Last Samurai, with its elegant folk-tinged intro and rapidfire, bellicose Asian riffage. They nick a classic early 80s Maiden sound for in The Howling and stick with it for the closing cut, Survival Instinct. Let’s hope they survive to make another album as good as this one.

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.

One of the World’s Sharpest, Funniest Song Stylists Salutes the Dearly Departed

Rachelle Garniez has gotten more ink from this blog than just about any other artist, starting with the very first concert ever reviewed here, an installment of Paul Wallfisch‘s fantastic and greatly missed Small Beast series in the late summer of 2011. Since then, she’s released plenty of studio material as well, from the song ranked best of 2015 here – the metaphorically searing, Elizabethan-tinged Vanity’s Curse, from her album Who’s Counting – to her charming, oldtimey-flavored An Evening in New York duo record with Kill Henry Sugar guitar wizard Erik Della Penna earlier this year.

The latest installment of Garniez’s recent creative tear is yet another album, Gone to Glory – streaming at Spotify – her first-ever covers record. The project took shape at a series of shows at East Village boite Pangea, beginning as an annual salute to artists who’d left us the previous year. The secret of playing covers is simple: either you do the song in a completely different way, or make it better than the original, otherwise it’s a waste of time. In this case, Garniez splits the difference between reinventions and improvements.

Playing piano, she opens the record with a quote that’s almost painfully obvious, but still too funny to give away. Then she switches to accordion over the strutting groove of drummer Dave Cole, bassist Derek Nievergelt and violist Karen Waltuch for a polka-tinged take of Motorhead’s Killed By Death. That’s the album’s funniest song, although most of the rest are equally radical reinventions: Garniez has a laserlike sense of a song’s inner meaning and teases that out here, time after time.

She does Prince’s Raspberry Beret as a country song and then discovers the slinky inner suspensefulness in a low-key, noir-tinged take of David Bowie’s Scary Monsters. It’s super creepier than the original, as is a slightly stormier version of Mose Allison’s Monsters of the Id. She switches to piano for a brooding, lush, string-infused version of Jimmy Dorsey’s My Sister and I, a World War II refugee’s tale originally sung by Bea Wain in 1941.

Aretha Franklin is represented twice. Garniez’s droning accordion imbues The Day Is Past and Gone with an otherworldly druid-folk ambience. Her whispery, subtle solo piano take of Day Dreaming is all the more sultry for its simmering calm and mutedly cajoling intensity. Her tender delivery of a pillowy, orchestrated version of Della Reese’s Don’t You Know has much the same effect.

She keeps the sepulchral stillness and poignancy going through a folky arrangement of Kenny Rogers’ disabled veteran’s lament Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town – it’s infinitely sadder than the original. Sharon Jones’ 100 Days, 100 Nights gets a dark bolero-tinged interpretation that rises to a brassy peak

Garniez mashes up a little Piazzolla into her gently lilting version of Frank Mills, from the Hair soundtrack, playing up the song’s stream-of-consciousness surrealism. Nancy Wilson’s How Glad I Am has a lush retro 60s soul vibe, in a Bettye LaVette vein.

Garniez’s spare, gospel-tinged piano and subued vocals reveal the battle fatigue in the worn-down showbiz narrative of Glenn Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy. She closes the record with an apt, guardedly hopeful cover of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem. There’s a crack in everything, and that’s how Rachelle Garniez gets in.

Big up to the rest of the ensemble, who elevate many of these songs to symphonic levels: violinists Paul Woodiel and Cenovia Cummins, violist Entcho Todorov, cellist Mary Wooten, french horn player Jacob Garniez, multi-reedman Steve Elson, trombonist Dan Levine, trumpeter John Sneider, harpist Mia Theodoratis, harmonica player Randy Weinstein and backing vocalists Amanda Homi and Jeremy Beck.

Menacing Full-Throttle Instrumentals From the Death Wheelers

Today’s Halloween album, streaming at Bandcamp, is I Tread on Your Grave, by instrumentalists the Death Wheelers. The album cover and bandname are a little misleading: what they play isn’t really biker rock. It’s closer to the growling SoCal ATV themes that Agent Orange played on the River’s Edge soundtrack (now there’s a great Halloween movie!). Pat Irwin’s eclectic 80s scorpion rock band the Raybeats also come to mind, although the Death Wheelers are a lot louder. more metal-oriented and distinguish themselves with downtuned bass. In the same vein as another legendary instrumental rock band, Man or Astroman, the group like to open their songs with snippets from cheesy 50s horror flicks.

The album opens with the title track. Max Tremblay’s doomy, gleefully tremoloing Sabbath-esque bass riff kicks it off, then the band – who also comprise guitarists Sy Tremblay and Hugo Bertacci, plus drummer Richard Turcotte – take it on a weirdly syncopated tangent with keening slide guitar.

13 Discycles is a metalflake take on horror surf: when the band go halfspeed, then quarterspeed on the long outro, it could be Pantera playing Beware the Dangers of a Ghost Scorpion. The furthest they go into the surf is Moto Vampiro, but even that takes a detour into vintage 70s riff-rock: the flange and the distorted bass add skunky contrast.

Where so many of these tracks careen from one style to another or mash them up, Roadkill 69 is the closest thing to 60s biker theme here, but with metal sonics. The album’s best track, Sleazy Rider Returns, is also its creepiest, a Frankenstein gallop that starts out as the most horror surf-oriented number here, then slouches toward Sleep and then pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd.

Death Wheelers/Marche Funebre begins all sludgy, with some tasty machete tremolo-picking, then the band put the rubber to the road: it could be the Coffin Daggers with grittier bass. They launch into a nazgul gallop in Black Crack, a wry update on a classic Led Zep stomp; then, in Backstabber, they weld more of that vinyl-cracking sunburst slide guitar to a chugging, vintage Motorhead-style riff. 

If Iron Maiden had been an instrumental band during their earliest days back in the 70s, they might have done RIP (Last Ride) – the sample that introduces it is a real hoot. The brief Purple Wings sounds like an unexpectedly swinging, funk-tinged rehearsal jam that the band decided to keep and maybe work up later.

The album’s final cut is Moby Dick – an original, not the Led Zep monstrosity -where they nick an old Sonny Boy Williamson riff that the Allman Brothers infamously ruined, and do it justice. Guess these guys figured they couldn’t nick the title as well if they didn’t put in a really funny Spinal Tap drum solo as well. It’s hard to think of a more interesting, original heavy band out there. 

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.

Out of Order’s New Album Kicks Ass

In one way, Caitlin Millerick’s Russ Meyer-style graphics on the cover of Out of Order’s second album, Hey Pussycat! are a dead giveaway to what’s on the record: these three women don’t mess around, going for the jugular every time, ten songs in just over 28 minutes. But their music isn’t the least bit retro: guitarist/singer Lydia Lucy Lane, bassist Gilliey DeSilva and drummer Erin Millerick have a sound that’s completely their own. Raw, slyly assaultive and unselfconsciously defiant, their noise-punk blends unbridled Distillers-style vocals, searing, occasionally feedback-drenched guitar and a supertight, nimble rhythm section. John Sharples’ rich production looks back to the 80s in the best possible way, heavy on the high midrange, drums up just enough in the mix to showcase Millerick’s powerful chops without drowning out the rest of the band.

The opening track Impossible balances Motorhead stomp, classic punk riffage, ringing dreampop echoes and an absolutely corrosive, jagged guitar solo: “I am impossible to please” is Lane’s uneasy mantra. The second track, a whoah-oh step toward emo-punk is followed by the absolutely scorching Dirty Love, which is catchy as hell, like Shellac set to a punk beat, with a deliciously murky outro. Don’t Do That Baby takes a bluesy oldtime rock tune, gives it a crunchy punk bounce and just enough menace in the vocals to add a scary edge. The acidic Rosy builds from an abrasive verse to another catchy-as-hell punk chorus, Lane’s half-spoken vocals underscoring the song’s bludgeoning sarcasm.

There are a couple of lickety-split hardcore tracks here: Gimme Noise, with its wicked minor-key riffage and Horror Show, a pretty irresistible invitation to join the party. Teddy Homewrecker (NYC) works a midtempo Sham 69-ish vibe, a cautionary tale about a male slut: “You’ll need rehab when he’s through,” Lane warns. “He kissed you, he kissed me too.” The album ends with two killer tracks. The deliciously harsh Nobody Cares scorches from catchy punk chromatics to ominously echoing atonalities on the chorus, while the equally caustic Therapy builds to a literally screaming pitch out of noisy hardcore. Where should this great band be headed? To the Warped Tour, for starters. But not at some cheesy side stage next to the nacho concession at the edge of some Walmart parking lot: they need to be front and center where they can get the entire crowd to go nuts. They’re at Local 269 on July 19 at around 10: onstage, they add seriously evil guitar feedback, give DeSilva extra space to show off her supersonic fingers and let the drums go completely wild.

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!