Tag Archives: heavy metal

Prophets of Rage – Self-Titled

Prophets of Rage album coverTwenty five years ago Rage Against The Machine blasted into the world with an incendiary hybrid of heavy metal and rap fuelled by perceived injustices and inequalities in life in the USA.

Since then the band have come and gone a couple of times with varying levels of success, and each have pursued their own careers outside the band, but the trio of Tom Morello (guitars), Tim Commerford (Bass) and Brad Wilk (drums), following a few stints with the late Chris Cornell as Audioslave, have now reconvened, joined by hip hop pioneers Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill, under the name Prophets of Rage.

Given the political outlook of all six men it’s probably unsurprising that they should be so re-energised now and across their self-titled debut there is a newly found power that was missing from Rage Against The Machine’s resurrection when I saw them at Reading Festival in 2008.

Here, from the opening strains of Radical Eyes onwards, Prophets of Rage mix everything you’d expect them to in a great balance that brings the hard rock groove of Audioslave into the metallic edge of Rage Against The Machine, with the biting MCing of Chuck D and the more varied but no less pointed vocal stylings of B-Real, all with DJ Lord being a constant presence along with the band.

Prophets of Rage band

Prophets of Rage

It’s hard to not compare this to Rage as, sonically, there are a lot of similarities but, compared to that band’s work this is, unsurprisingly, more mature. Certainly it is packed with political motive, titles like Unfuck The World, Hail To The Chief and Who Owns Who, make that obvious before you even listen, but rather than the largely polemic ranting of Zack De La Rocha, Chuck D and B-Real add something more to it making it much more digestible and more personal feeling.

The supergroup is always a worrying concept and Prophets of Rage certainly fall into that category but, unlike some examples, they don’t feel like several other acts rammed together but do feel like a new band in their own right, just fuelled by the same things as their past projects.

Added to all of this is the fact that songs are hugely catchy and great to listen to.

Prophets of Rage live

Prophets of Rage live

It’s not often a record can sit in the CD player in my car for a week and just loop, but this one does and each listen reveals new things, from the interplay between Morello’s guitars and Lord’s decks to how well Chuck D and B-Real’s voices work together to make a bigger sound that I can envisage and really want to experience live just from listening.

The album has no real weak points but its opening trio of tracks (Radical Eyes, Unfuck The World and Legalize Me) are a solid highlight as are Hail To The Chief and Take Me Higher and I can only imagine (and hope) that with the continuing political upheavals taking place Prophets of Rage will have fuel for plenty more great music to come.

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CJ Wildheart – Blood

CJ Wildheart - Blood - album artworkOver the last few years CJ Wildheart has broken away from the band that has given him his ‘surname’, as well as the band’s he’s been a member of outside of that, to create material that is genuinely his.

While Robot and before that Mable (named after his favourite chicken… and why not) began to explore a palette away from The Wildhearts it’s with his latest offering, Blood, that it really feels he’s found himself in his music.

Released and funded once again through Pledgemusic probably means most of his die-hard fans have already brought and downloaded the album, but there is plenty in it for more that just those dedicated few to like.

For a fair chunk of the record the sound is the fine mix of power pop rhythms and melodies married to the crunching, metallic, riffery we’ve come to expect.

In this CJ clearly references his namesake band but there’s very much a feeling to it that this is his version of that sound away from Ginger’s often more experimental leanings.

So, while we don’t get the abrupt tempo changes and extended sequences that The Wildhearts often headed into, we do get songs that you can bounce along to just as well – for those who are familiar with the band, I found some strong references in the sounds made by SugarSlam.

CJ Wildheart

CJ Wildheart

As well as this though there are songs where CJ goes into the heaviest territory he has explored yet.

Here we get intense riffs and rhythms, combined with CJ’s generally slightly cleaner style of heavy vocals – this isn’t shouting and screaming metal but still has a heavier and more abrasive edge than elsewhere.

At their heaviest moment it hints that CJ might have a side, like his former bandmate, that could lead to something like the lighter Mutation moments but in the context of this record he never fully commits to that (it would be somewhat out-of-place if he did).

While the sounds are a development on what we’ve come to expect from CJ it is in some of the subjects he deals with and the way he delivers the vocals that it feels things have really developed. Obviously all his songs have always come from his point of view in the past, but on Blood it’s the first time I got the feeling of CJ getting really personal in his lyrics.

CJ Wildheart - Blood artworkThis can be heard across the whole album but it is maybe most obvious on Fifty Percent Indian.

It’s not for me to say whether this is based on CJ’s own experiences or not but it has a strong ring of truth in the delivery that both grounds it in his experience growing up and living in England and also places it within a wider current sociopolitical discourse growing from the ongoing immigration, Brexit, etc debate.

Once again with Blood CJ Wildheart has created a strong set of songs that further remove him from his history with The Wildhearts while continuing to build on the strong sense of pop-rock that were that bands call sign, particularly during his times with the band, making for his strongest solo outing to date that has plenty on offer for both long-term fans and people on the look out for something new.

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Ministry – Psalm 69 (The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs)

Ministry - Psalm 69 album cover25 years ago industrial metal band Ministry unleashed what is arguably their magnum opus launching them into the hard rock mainstream and making them one of the cornerstones of the sounds that were to become a large part of heavy metal in the mid to late 90s.

While still credited as the duo of founder Al Jourgensen and longtime collaborator Paul Barker, Psalm 69 (aka ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ) saw Ministry develop on the sounds of The Land of Rape And Honey and The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste with Mike Scaccia’s electric guitars coming to the fore over their previously established bed of harsh synths and distorted vocals and samples.

This is demonstrated from the off with NWO, an abrasive statement of intent that sets the scene for the first half of the album.

Along with the developed industrial metal sound the song’s subject matter is something that has been a mainstay of Ministry’s music before and since as it openly attacks the American foreign policy (in this case the Gulf War and George H. W. Bush) and hints ideas of conspiracy theories, a formula that saw the band reach their second peak in the early 2000s during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Ministry - Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker - 1992

Jourgensen and Barker in 1992

Just One Fix, a partial collaboration with Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs, as the title suggests, deals with another of Ministry’s long-standing preoccupations, extreme drug use.

There are many stories about the band’s drug consumption during the production of this record (with one Jourgensen himself saying they were spending in excess of $1,000 a day of the record companies money on the pass time) and its strongly reflected here.

The combination of militaristic rhythms and distorted, swirling vocals and samples hurls the listens down a dark and twisted rabbit hole like little else, and that if we believe Jourgensen, is a first hand account of what was going on in his and the rest of the band’s heads at the time.

TV II and Hero continue the sociopolitical themes before the album’s highlight arrives in the form of a demented slice of Americana, Jesus Built My Hotrod.

With a near gibberish vocal performance from Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes, it has a quality that is oddly revelatory in an entirely inexplicable way with slide guitars added to the mix creating an undisputed heavy metal floor filler that has become something of a deranged classic.

Ministry - Jesus Built My Hotrod - Gibby Haynes

Haynes in the video for Jesus Built My Hotrod

After this Scarecrow slows things down from the manic first half of the record and begins a descent into a kind of apocalyptic reverie that is highlighted by the (sort of) title track that combines the intensity of the first half with the later heaviness in the best of ways.

The record is then rounded off by Corrosion and Grace that pull things into a kind of hellishly enjoyable black hole of noise.

While Psalm 69 is a highly enjoyable album purely on its own merits (especially when played at extreme volume), hence its place in music history as a defiantly underground album that crossed over into mainstream consciousness, its place in the history of heavy music is one that, 25 years on, marks it out as a classic.

In many ways it defines the mainstream industrial metal genre which was developed, in various directions, by contemporaries Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and more with only NIN ever reaching a similar level of intensity and power (the others were unashamedly more pop).

Ministry live 1992

Ministry on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour

On top of this it sits alongside the work of Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down and their ilk in reintroducing a truly subversive streak into the heavy metal mainstream following the self-absorption of 80s glam and the nihilism or internal depression of grunge.

This all comes together to make Psalm 69 an album that set the scene for a lot of the music that was to follow, even reaching as far as nu-metal (for its sins), and marking Ministry, who have had a patchy career before and since, as one of the most influential metal bands of the past three decades here if nowhere else.

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Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

Mastodon - Emperor of Sand coverFor the best part of the last two decades Mastodon have carved a path through hard rock and heavy metal that is all their own. Often combining conceptual themes with crushingly heavy sounds they have gained a formidable reputation across six albums and have now release their seventh, Emperor of Sand.

From the off everything one would expect is here as the four-piece build from a clear influence from metal originators Black Sabbath to create a sound that marries thrash, doom, stoner and prog into a unique package.

Within all of this the band find a core that is remarkably accessible and this really comes to the fore on Show Yourself that has a sing along type streak and hook laden feel that almost takes it into pop metal territory.

Precious Stones meanwhile brings elements of the concept, based around time, to the fore in impressive style before Steambreather shows the band’s groovier tendencies excellently and that’s followed by several moments that I can’t help but think current Metallica is ironically striving (and largely failing) to emulate.

Mastodon

Mastodon

Across the record as a whole there’s a feeling that Mastodon are doing their best to fill every space  with a sound of some sort and, while in the hands of some this could be unbearable, they balance it out so nothing is overriding something else and, while it can be claustrophobic at times, it never feels like this isn’t the band’s intent.

That said there are moments where it feels like Brent Hinds might be heading slightly too far into guitar histrionic territory but it stays just the right side of being over the top and just feels like guys who can play and aren’t ashamed to hide it.

As the record goes on it builds in power and intensity with largely clean vocals giving way to more abrasive sounds and the soaring solos are matched by swirling riffs escalating it all into a maelstrom of sound that could easily derail things but comes with a smoothness often not present in more experimental metal (not that it always needs to be, but here it fits perfectly). This all reaches a bracing crescendo on Scorpion Breath.

Mastodon liveThis is all brought to a point on final track Jaguar God that seems to do everything the preceding 10 tracks have done in seven and a half minutes as it weaves its way from a piano and acoustic opening to an astral plane tripping climax that, like the rest of Emperor of Sand, continues to stake Mastodon’s claim as one of the most interesting heavy bands coming out of America this century.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: April 2017 – Elliot Falla in session and Vorlon

Elliot Falla and Vorlon Daz Carre

Elliot Falla and Vorlon

Click here to listen to the show

On the April 2017 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I featured a pair of guests spanning the range of guitar music in Guernsey.

Elliot Falla was in session with his brand of folk influence indie-blues including tracks from his recent Throne EP and brand new songs. He also told us not only about the making of the EP but also how its been expanding his gigging away from the island following regular shows in Brighton and London over the last few months.

Vorlon on the other hand is a project from long-standing heavy metal musician Daz Carre. He told us about his new album, intense extreme metal project False Sense of Security, as well as his time playing music in the islands which began in the mid-90s and has taken in bands such as Crunchy Frog, Earthcorpse, Darker Shores, Mechanical Lobster, Nemesis and more primarily as drummer but also playing bass and guitar.

You can listen to the show for the next 30 days through the BBC iPlayer Radio App or by clicking here.

I also announced that BBC Introducing Guernsey will again be going live as part of Arts Sunday, you can find out more about that here.

Tracklist

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Vorlon – False Sense of Security

Vorlon - False Sense of Security coverHaving made his name as drummer with bands like Earthcorpse and Darker Shores and playing guitar and bass for the likes of Mechanical Lobster and Maiden Guernsey (amongst others), Daz Carre has now released his solo debut, under the name Vorlon.

False Sense of Security was recorded and produced by Bob Klein of Noizemonkey Studios in Guernsey and is available now via Bandcamp.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd April 2017 and you can read it below.

Vorlon - False Sense of Security review

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Granite Wolf, WaterColour Matchbox, Thunderbox and Track Not Found – The Fermain Tavern – 24/03/17

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

Its been quite some time since there’s a been an event advertised as a ‘metal night’ in Guernsey. With the general drifting of popular musical styles, metal bands have generally had to find their way into more varied line ups so, when this cropped up in the local gig guide, it had my interest piqued from the start.

Added to this was the fact all four bands were relatively new and two I had never seen live before.

track not found started off the night with one of their first full gigs away from their Sound Guernsey origin.

Having developed over the last year, the trio combine elements of grunge, riotgrrl and the kind of power-blues Jack White has made his name with to create a sound fairly unique to Guernsey – if it hadn’t been clear before, their cover of a track by Highly Suspect tonight just added to the blues rock feel.

While the band were still a bit lose in places they also found some nice grooves and dynamic shifts within their songs making them far more than the run of the mill pop punk cover act we’ve come to expect in the younger end of the island’s music scene.

Track Not Found

Grace and Emma of Track Not Found

Grace Tayler lead the band with a performance that is hard to look away from with a unique guitar style that, while not always succesful, again leads to the bands’ difference, and vocals unlike any female performer I’ve heard over here. Both Emma Thomas (drums) and Masie Bisson (bass and vocals) also have enough attitude and presence to make them far more than just the backing band.

While they still have a way to go in finding their own sound and identity, and in terms of stage presence, track not found are certainly a highlight at the younger end of the scene and proved it tonight, winning over a number of the often staid adult gig going crowd.

From a band with such a high level of inventiveness they are struggling to contain it the night shifted to one following a well trodden path but doing it with a degree of success, ThunderBox.

Taking nu-metal and its mid 200os evolution, the five-piece started off a bit rough with a Linkin Park cover before settling down a few songs in to some perfectly serviceable covers of the likes of Slipknot, Korn and Soil.

ThunderBox

ThunderBox

This is a style never really known for its nuance and ThunderBox fit that perfectly and I will admit that, for the most part, they miss my era of hardcore metal fandom by a few years so I don’t have the nostalgia for these tracks that it was clear many in attendance did.

Despite a few ups and downs (and an unforgivable metal version of Electric Six’s Gay Bar – no band needs to cover that song again, ever) their set was perfectly enjoyable and I could see fitting in perfectly at a party for those who grew into a love of metal between 2003 and 2006.

WaterColour Matchbox couldn’t have looked much different with keyboard and synthesiser front and centre and a set of exploratory, semi-prog metal to play through.

From the off I was surprised at the ‘metallic’ nature and heaviness of their sound as the four-piece drove their way through a set drawn from their debut album Fragments, Artefacts and Ruins.

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

The addition of Scott Michel on bass added a good dynamic to the performance as his heavy bass underpinned the more intricate guitar work of Mikey Ferbrache and the guitar, piano and vocals of Pete Mitchell.

Mitchell in fact seemed more engaged with the music than I have seen from him in other bands and it transmitted more to the audience, even if there were a few moments where the number of parts he was playing got a little too much for him, but these were brief.

Closing as their album does on The Wall and Homeward Bound, their most prog songs, ended the set on a high and seemed to impress many in the crowd who were headbanging along.

Having formed from the ashes of Brutus Stonefist, Granite Wolf continued their pursuit of riffs and beer in fine form blasting through a set of tight, quick and punchy metalcore.

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

The atmosphere they brought had something of a throwback to gigs half a decade ago, but it wasn’t the worse for it and built more of a positive atmosphere than many bands manage, particularly in the heavier music side of things. This was mostly driven by a breakdown of the invisible barrier between the band and the audience and a ‘we’re all in this together’ type feeling.

Musically the band were on blistering form once they settled in with riff after riff delivered at breakneck pace and some nice grooves as well – Road To Home was a particular stand out in all these regards.

Keeping it short and sweet added to this and, though they did come back for an encore, Granite Wolf did just what they needed to do – highlight the night with an uncomplicated blast of noise that got heads banging and bodies moving and showed that, even if its less obvious than it has been in the past, metal in Guernsey still has a lot of life left in it.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct

Metallica - Hardwired... To Self-Destruct cover artWhen Metallica released Hardwired, the lead single from their 10th studio album, things were looking good. That track felt like a reenergised band, harking back to their prime but with a newly rediscovered power and intensity.

Now the album itself, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct has been released on the world, it appears things aren’t quite as straightforward.

Once you’ve got past the album cover which looks like it may have had a good idea behind it, even if the execution doesn’t quite live up to that, the double album (going by the CD version) starts well with the aforementioned titular single and the inventively heavy Atlas Rise!

Now That We’re Dead and Moth Into The Flame aren’t too bad either with some nice groovy passages reminiscent of the band’s mid-90s era, but it is around here that a few problems start to present themselves.

Other than Hardwired every track clocks in at over five minutes and, while this has been a trademark of the band throughout their career, that trademark used to include an inventiveness that saw the songs evolve and transition.

Metallica 2016This was most notably heard on …And Justice For All, but here they just seem to repeat the same passages without development making it feel like many of these songs could be cut in half and remain just as, if not more, effective.

In the same way as Ride The Lightning & Master of Puppets in the mid 1980s and Load & Reload in the mid 1990s, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct very much feels like a partner to Metallica’s last studio album Death Magnetic.

Unfortunately while Ride and Master were the band hitting their creative peak and Load and Reload saw them trying something new, what this pair of albums seems to do is hark back to the past, particularly that mid-80s heyday, which unfortunately demonstrates a once highly innovative band treading water and, potentially, falling foul of too high a level of fan service than really is required.

The second disc of the album continues this largely forgettable feeling that sadly, while not actually bad, simply isn’t very good either. For a band as historically divisive as Metallica this is a real shame – in many ways I’d rather hate this record than simply feel largely ambivalent to it.

Metallica live in 2016

Metallica live in 2016

A highlight of a sort of the second disc is Murder One, a tribute to long time friend of the band Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, but even this feels a bit too forced and passionless in its rendering here.

In the end then Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is, for the most part, an overlong set of songs that feel like Metallica are repeating themselves and stuck in some kind of loop of searching to relive past glories and keep fans happy while essentially failing to do either – at least St. Anger got people talking…

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Brunt – Blackbeard

Brunt Blackbeard coverFollowing the release of their debut album in 2014 Brunt put out a vinyl edition and then headed back into their bunker, aside from a few live outings, to work on new material.

Now two and a half years later that new material has been released in the form of three track digital EP, Blackbeard.

Continuing where they left off the EP consists of three slow and heavy tracks bearing all their hallmarks but showing a band more in groove with each other than before.

The EP is available through the band’s Bandcamp page and they have suggested a vinyl release might also be happening, though not in the immediate future.

My review of Blackbeard was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 12th November.

brunt blackbeard review 12-11-16

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Introducing Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

A couple of weekends ago those gathered at The Fermain Tavern were introduced to a new band with riff after riff after m-f’ing riff (to steal a phrase from The Wildhearts) – that band are the excellently named Granite Wolf.

You can read my review of that show here

Made up of a group of familiar musicians from the last decade of heavy music in Guernsey, including members of Brutus Stonefist, She Haunts The Roads and To The Woods, the band combine a sense of friendship and fun with crushing metalcore sounds.

I caught up with them after their gig for an interview that was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 8th October 2016.

Granite Wolf interview scan - 08/10/16

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