Tag Archives: stoner rock

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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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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The Recks Return with Lord Vapour, The Secret Smiles and Blue Mountains – The Fermain Tavern – 28/10/16

The Recks at The Fermain Tavern

The Recks

After more than a year away, and seemingly having gone their separate ways as 2015 came to an end, alternative indie-folk five-piece The Recks made their live return on Friday 28th October 2016 at The Fermain Tavern.

As well as unveiling a new line up the band were also marking the release of their second official single, Low Life, from their long-awaited (and still yet to be released) debut album.

Support on the night came in the form of three bands chosen by The Recks, stoner blues rock behemoths Lord Vapour, melodic indie band The Secret Smiles and dark folk duo Blue Mountains.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 5th November 2016 and you can read it below, you can also see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

recks-return-gig-review-05-11-16

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Sons of Cain album launch – The Fermain Tavern – 22/07/16

Sons of Cain

Sons of Cain

As anyone who follows music of any kind will know things come in waves with different sounds and styles ebbing and flowing and some trends becoming more popular than others, this is true even within the small scene in Guernsey.

So, when Sons of Cain appeared earlier in the year with grand plans for a heavy metal concept album and live show to go with it they stood out against the prevailing scene in the way that metal often has, for better or worse.

Arriving at The Fermain Tavern for the show there was an odd atmosphere to the place and ska-punks Honest Crooks seemed oddly nervous for a band with so many gigs under their belt. After a few festival shows it was great seeing the three-piece back up close and once they got going the nerves clearly vanished as they delivered their usual fun show.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Mixing up their now fairly well-worn set a bit provided some new dynamics but the crowd didn’t connect with it like they have at other gigs. Largely this was probably down to the fact that the trio stood out like a sore thumb when compared to the heavier bands making up the rest of the bill and the podium and pole set up in the middle of the dance floor didn’t really help either essentially blocking a chunk of the stage for the audience.

The reason for this podium was what came next as a quartet of agile and rhythmically gifted young ladies performed a set of pole dancing routines. While the dancers themselves performed some impressive things I couldn’t help but find this part of the night a little out-of-place and the concept as a whole somewhat dated.

The likes of Motörhead and Motley Crüe are known for their use of dancers during their performances but none of the bands on offer tonight fit that style, though it was nice to hear some Sisters of Mercy played loud through the PA for one of the routines…

'Soloman Cain' of Sons of Cain

‘Soloman Cain’

Positioning themselves in the middle of the show, rather than headlining, felt like an odd choice for Sons of Cain but the crowd headed forward in anticipation as the trio took to the stage.

While the rhythm section of Keith (drums) and Joe (bass) had gone to a small effort to fit the conceptual metal vibe, visually it was frontman Vinny who’d gone all out as his alter ego ‘Soloman Cain’ (isn’t there a comic book character called that?) in an abundance of black leather, make up, white contact lenses and a pair of elaborate, black angel’s wings.

Unfortunately one band member in costume doesn’t guarantee a good show and, while they thrashed their way through the songs Sons of Cain largely failed to connect with the audience who, a few songs in, drifted from the dancefloor.

Occasionally joined by former Stone Em All axeman Lee the band did have some nice moments, particularly when they got into some classic thrash style passages, but as a complete package it all fell somewhat flat in a plodding retread of the kind of thing Dio was doing nearly forty years ago. None of this was helped by a sound mix that saw the guitars lost in the general murk and the pole dancers clearing their equipment away on the dancefloor midway through the set.

While it’s always good to see a band try something different, here Sons of Cain fell the wrong side of power metal ridiculousness and it was hard to tell if they were taking it all a bit too seriously or were just out to have some slightly silly fun.

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

With the dance floor now clear of poles and podiums Lord Vapour launched into their set in punishingly loud fashion. As they worked their way through the first track the crowd returned from wherever they’d been hiding and the band shimmied into their loose grooves as they always do.

While I will admit to having grown a little tired of Lord Vapour’s extended jams there’s no doubting they are well delivered and have gained them a dedicated following and they were in the midst of a prime example of that as I slipped out into the night after one of the most unusual night’s I’ve experienced at ‘The Tav’ in quite some time.

See my full gallery of photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Facebook page

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Lord Vapour – Mill Street Blues

Lord Vapour - Mill Street Blues coverHaving taken Guernsey’s live music by storm over the past 12 months, including show stealing sets at Chaos 2015 and while supporting The Recks at The Fermain Tavern, stoner rock three-piece Lord Vapour headed into the studio over the winter to record their debut, Mill Street Blues.

Released through NoSlip Records there is a vinyl edition to come when the pressing plants catch up on the recent resurgence of the format, but in the meantime there’s a digital version available through Bandcamp.

My review of the record was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 25th June 2016, you can read it below…

Lord Vapour album review

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Lord Vapour, To The Woods, Lifejackt and Gregory Harrison – The Fermain Tavern – 07/05/16

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

With a three-day weekend for Liberation Day this year the sheer amount of live music going on over the three days was huge. My musical weekend began at The Fermain Tavern where three varied but heavy rock bands took to the stage across the course of evening, following a lower key acoustic opening.

That acoustic kick off came from Gregory Harrison accompanied by his double bass playing friend. The addition of the double bass to Harrison’s usual deep and soulful acoustic rock did bring a new musical depth, but, given their lack of rehearsal time before the show meant they stuck with the more down beat material from Greg’s repertoire. This somewhat compounded the lack of engagement from the mostly distant audience most of whom stayed chatting around the back of the venue.

None-the-less Greg and his bandmate played very well and with a brand new track rounding off the set did, eventually, up the energy in their music and in the room getting a highly positive reaction from those who cared to listen.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

After a fairly long break from a Guernsey stage (they did play a show in Jersey a few months ago), Lifejacket were back tonight and their time away seemed to have increased the intensity pouring from all three members of the band.

Coupled with this heightened intensity of performance came a now familiar but at times slightly reworked set of songs that drew a crowd down in front of the stage from the off.

While band leader and frontman Andy Sauvage very much focused on the songs as Lifejacket played, bass player John McCarthy provided something of a visual focus, but I have to say my only real criticism of Lifejacket tonight, particularly in comparison to the later bands, is the lack of audience engagement and showmanship during the set.

If Lifejacket were a band to focus on the technical side of their music as they play, from the off it was clear (as if I didn’t know already) that To The Woods were very much the opposite – particularly in the case of their larger than life frontman, Robert ‘Bobby’ Battle.

Bobby of To The Woods

Bobby of To The Woods

Starting the set with a new song, and dotting a few more throughout, its clear they aren’t a band resting on their musical laurels as the new numbers all develop on their grungy formula, one even brought to mind the likes of Pearl Jam from rhythm section James Ogier (bass) and Dan Garnham (drums) as Battle raged over the top in his own inimitable style.

As the set went on mosh pits and attempts at stage diving came and went, while Fire even encouraged a bit of a shout-along (though Bobby isn’t quite Freddie Mercury yet, despite his poses). The crowd did begin to drift a bit towards the end hinting that possibly To The Woods do the opposite of Lifejacket in coming across as too much about the personality as they perform – though they certainly have the songs to back it up.

A special mention has to go to Dave Riley (formerly a bandmate of Bobby in Iron Cobra) for possibly the best/worst stage dive and crowd surf the Tav has seen to date.

After a bit of a protracted break, during which much of the audience drifted away, Lord Vapour launched into their set with a wall of fuzzy, phase-y noise that just about coalesced into a slightly too loose version of their sensitively titled song, Sugar Tits.

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

With Island Man they seemed to get back into a nice groove for a few songs before the lead breaks and jams grew and grew to the point where the structure of any songs fell apart.

As this happened, and midnight neared, they once again began to lose many of the audience and, while there were some great riffs and impressive moments from all three members that showed a great potential, it was hard not to see their stoner grooves as becoming unstructured noise with guitar posing from Henry Fears and Joe Le Long’s vocals descending into an uncontrolled wail.

With a few calling for an encore after a bit of a break Lord Vapour rounded their set with what may or may not have been a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady that closed the show off on an odd note given the very impressive performances that had come before.

You can see more of my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Sound Guernsey present Lifejacket and Lord Vapour – The Venue – 22/01/16

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

After hip-hop and reggae last month and punk-ska and folk-hop the one before, things got undeniably more rocky for the third Sound Guernsey live music event for under-18s as they welcomed stoner rockers Lord Vapour and ‘hard-indie’ troupe Lifejacket to their stage at The Venue.

Lord Vapour started things off with their brand of groove fueled, vintage-tinged, rock and immediately seemed to engage the young crowd getting more than a few heads nodding.

With new songs mixed in with those we’ve been hearing for the best part of the last year they have extended their range somewhat to include a slightly broader mix, but it’s certainly the more groove based tracks that work best compared to more the more heavy metal flavoured numbers.

The trio suited the small stage well with Joe Le Long and Christiaan Mariess really rolling with the rhythm on bass and drums, while Henry Fears lead guitar wailed impressively over the top (though his vocal moments were less impressive).

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

As the set went on the audience began to drift somewhat and I’ll be the first to admit that there were points where Lord Vapour’s sound did get a bit ‘same-y’. At just over an hour their set felt over long no matter how well delivered their lose, semi-improvised, jams were.

Far more to the point were Lifejacket who blasted out of the blocks in their usual intense fashion. Seemingly fuelled by a barely contained ire at the world in general, they too grabbed the attention of the crowd and held it in probably a more sustained way.

With a few newer songs laced through the set the trio were at their slickest tonight and there were points where the performance was almost too slick for its own good, losing a bit of the intensity they have at their best. Nonetheless they gained cheers and applause after every song, I think much to their own surprise given the fact this was an audience most of whom had never had the chance to hear them before.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

Even with the good response the audience remained largely static and maintained a polite distance from the stage. This is something that has come up time and again with regards to many gigs on the island in recent years (with a few notable exceptions) so its hard to tell if the reason for the lack of interaction from the audience is down to this crowd being less experienced gig goers of if it’s just something to do with audiences in Guernsey in general. It could of course be the music, but all of it seemed to be eliciting a strong positive reaction.

Back to Sound Guernsey though and once again both bands put in great performances that were generally well received and  more youngsters seemed to appreciate what they were experiencing than previously (with the notable exceptions of Buffalo Huddleston’s wildly received set a few months back) and the organisers seemed confident they are now reaching the untapped audience of young music that exist on the island.

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Stone Em All EP and Launch show – The Vault – 15/08/15

Stone Em All

Stone Em All

After a number of years bringing metal to Guernsey stages Stone Em All launched their second EP, Villains, with a special show at The Vault on Saturday 15th August 2015.

At the show support came from groovy hard rockers Lord Vapour who seem to be playing most weekend’s this somewhere.

My review of both the show and the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd August and you can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Stone Em All and Lord Vapour and EP review scan - 22:08:15

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Lord Vapour – The Vault – 22/04/15

Lord Vapour at The Vault

Lord Vapour

For their first Bandstand Showcase night The Vault in St Peter Port welcomed a brand new band to christen their band new event – Lord Vapour.

Having released a three track EP late last year the three-piece have since been publicly quiet, but clearly working on their live performance as well as writing new songs, so they launched into their debut set at full, pounding, force.

From the off it was clear what realm we were in with much long hair and dreadlocks nodding to the blues infused grooves while heads banged to the more speed metal driven parts and the two met in the middle through a psychedelic prism creating a bass driven sound that can only really be described as ‘heavy’ – in a particularly traditional way.

Joe Le Long of Lord Vapour

Joe Le Long

Being a familiar face on Guernsey’s metal scene for a few years Lord Vapour has given bassist Joe Le Long a chance to take a step forward and front the band and here he did this with aplomb.

Across the set he demonstrated a way of playing that stylistically evoked the likes of Geezer Butler and Cliff Burton (with whom he shared a certain loon panted fashion sense as well). Particularly impressive, and new, to this performance though were his vocals that hit the sweet spot between metal growl and bluesy soul.

The performance in general didn’t go as smoothly as the band might have liked with first a piece of drum hardware breaking and then several guitar issues, but all three members dealt with them as smoothly as possible.

Particularly impressive in this was guitarist Henry Fears not letting a broken string bother him as he played around it for a fairly lengthy instrumental song before taking a short break to replace it and carry on the set. This was then followed by fixing the jack input on his Telecaster mid song later in the set, though did get me thinking he maybe should have had a back up instrument.

Henry Fears of Lord Vapour

Henry Fears

Taking a break to replace a string might, in some situations, come off as a band being unprepared but in the format here it didn’t seem to be too much of an issue and it was swiftly sorted out before things continued.

Across the set there was a mixture of instrumentals and tracks with vocals and it was clear (by the band’s own admission) that some of this was more a combination of raw ideas, yet to be tempered, than finished songs, but it nonetheless had a coherent sound and style. Along with which it was the best sound I’ve yet heard in this particular venue – maybe it’s unintentionally custom designed for hard and heavy rock?

While it was rough around the edges in places and was clearly a band still finding their songs, Lord Vapour put on an impressive show and certainly presented a unified sound and style in their music, bringing something of their own to the heavier side of Guernsey’s music scene with which they should fit in well and I could see them becoming one of its highlights.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here. My review was also published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 9th May 2015:

Lord Vapour review scan - 09:05:15

Here’s a flavour of what Lord Vapour do from their debut EP:

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Brunt (album review)

BruntA few weeks ago Guernsey-based stoner rock trio Brunt unleashed their debut album on the world.

Across five tracks the band’s style of instrumental sludge is something a bit different for music in Guernsey and has already made quite a mark on the live scene with shows at the islands two biggest music festivals, Chaos and the Vale Earth Fair, as well as many other gigs besides.

The album was recorded by Lifejacket Studios and is available via the band’s bandcamp page along with some rather snazzy t-shirts featuring versions of the artwork that was released in limited edition along with early copies of the music.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Thursday 29th May 2014:

Brunt review scan - 29:05:14and here’s a little preview of what the band actually sound like:

 

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