Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Slasher-Katharsis

Self-Release/Independent
2014  

Brazilian thrash metal? Now where have I heard that phrase before? Wasn't there that one band that used to feature the brothers Max and Igor Cavalera? Whatever became of that? All kidding aside, Slasher (who hail from Itapira, Sao Paulo and shouldn't be confused with several other metal acts that hold the same moniker) prove that there is so much more to Brazil's scene then just Sepultura. Of course most of us in the metal community already knew that, but should further proof ever be needed to persuade the naysayers just point in the general direction of this aggressive band and let the metal doing the talking for you! Active since 2008 (with "Katharsis" here serving as the second full-length studio album from this fast, frenzied and fantastically fucking furious five-piece!) Slasher (who actually bring to mind bands like Testament, Slayer and Annihilator more than Sepultura!) first made it's mark with the EP "Broken Faith". That was back in the beginning of 2009 and since then the band (with a pair of singles sandwiching the 2011 debut-album, "Pray For The Dead") has shuffled the deck some line-up wise and (going by the hellfire sounds of this Tue Madse-produced album!) emerged all the stronger! With a terrifically terrifying new lead-singer added to the line-up (Paulo Skeeter) and a pair of top-tier guitarists (Lúcio Nunes and Lucas Aldigheri) that know the ends and outs of all things awesome (technical thrash, eighties thrash, modern metal and even death thrash make up the body of work known as "Katharsis") this band could and should go far! Both albums ("Pray For The Dead" and "Katharsis") can be downloaded for free at the link below, but for a band this good you really should toss a few bucks into the coffer (if for no other reason then just so that Slasher can continue on in it's attempt to rage and pummel it's way to the top of the pile!). And really, if Slasher can keep pumping out first bangin' metal like this there's no reason to think that they will remain unsigned for that much longer! 

http://www.slasher.com.br/en/?page_id=32

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Gareth Dickson-Invisible String

Sleeping Man Records
2014

More often than not doesn't it just seem as if it is the simple things that prove to be the most pleasurable? Whether it's a welcoming smile or the comforting touch of a friend or even the smell of fresh coffee or the way in which rain ends up mesmerizing you as you sit there and stare it is often the small things we treasure most. And that concept holds true when it comes to music. As much as I love complex and creative studio recordings like the Beach Boy's "Pet Sounds" there are moments where I want to be surrounded by the sounds of simplicity. Not necessarily the sounds of simple music (as in noisy, three cord punk), but music that has been stripped of all of it's pretenses and is presented almost as-is. Case in point-"Invisible String". Recorded in 2012 as Gareth Dickson (a artist with a wonderful, fully-engaging range) worked his way across Europe in support of "Quite A Way Away" with sometimes as little as his voice and a guitar, "Invisible String" is not only a stunning collection of live material from this remarkable musician, but a picture-perfect presentation on how oftentimes less can be magically transformed into more! Or in this case how unexpected locations can be used to create awe-inspiring music of the heartfelt and heartwarming variety!. For you see not only was the sincere music on "Invisible String" collected from the "usual" locations (traditional live performances), but from off the wall and (dare I even say it!) odd spots like a apartment lobby in Caen, France! That particular location (along with a handful of other "unexpected" areas) proved to be nothing short of a godsend though as this album is filled to overflowing with the sounds of naked and natural music that is breathtaking in it's simplicity. For this Glasgow-native (who, unjustly or not, often gets compared to Nick Drake), "Invisible String" is a once in a lifetime moment where a man and his instrument(s) work together in perfect harmony. Available on just about every format you could ask for, "Invisible String" is easily one of the most intimate and inspirational live albums of 2014!

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bloody Hammers-Under Satan's Sun

Napalm Records
2014

Released back in late May of this year, "Under Satan's Sun" is the third album from Charlotte, North Carolina band Bloody Hammers. Having simply loved the band's self-titled debut album (a release which was as hit or miss with fans as it was critics) I must admit that I was slightly disappointed by it's 2013 follow-up, "Spiritual Relics", as it just felt....uninspired. So much so in fact that I couldn't bring myself to cover it. Now we have "Under Satan's Sun" and while I am in no way saying that I'm ready to write this band off completely I do have to wonder out loud how it is possible for a band with so much promise and potential to go from one great album to one (at best) decent album and then (some two years or so after first forming mind you!) follow things up with a release that I can't help but feel indifferent about? Psychedelic doom opener "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" (previously released as 7" single with "Glimpse") is alright and (fuzzed-out) heavy doom rocker "Spearfinger" offers tiny glimpses of hope that Bloody Hammers will right the ship and return to harbor, but then things start to unravel on "Death Does Us". As others have pointed out before me, "Death Does Us" is Bloody Hammers trying to be Type O Negative and while that is a crime in and of itself it gets worse. "Death Does Us" also sounds remarkably similar to "Load"/"ReLoad"-era Metallica and that is a unforgivable offense! For a band that had it all down pat on "Bloody Hammers" (a fun album that brought to mind not only classic Black Sabbath, but everyone from Alice Cooper to The Sword!) cuing up images of late-nineties Metallica simply does not cut it! Sure, "The Moon-Eyed People" is (hand's down!) an improvement when it kicks in and there is really nothing offensive about "Second Coming" (a Alice Cooper cover). Even "Dead Man's Shadow on the Wall" and "The Necromancer" are solid. So why does the group feel the need to infuse some Soundgarden into the title track? Or for that matter put to tape a number like "The Last Alarm"? At best "The Last Alarm" is more grunge for a generation which missed out on it the first time around. At it's worst though "The Last Alarm" is more grunge for those of us who lived through the scene already and heard it done a thousands times better. Once band leader/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Anders Manga abandons everything that works in Bloody Hammer's favor (doom metal, psychedelic rook, occult rock of old, seventies rock/hard rock influences, inspiration from seventies horror movies and even stoner rock) things go down hill quickly! While I'm all for a band's right to grow and further experiment with their sound there are cases where this backfires. "Under Satan's Sun" is a case study on how to over-think matters when less would have been more. Maybe album number four will be the ticket for Bloody Hammers, but for now I think I'll go back to "Bloody Hammers" when I'm in the mood for something really cool and inspirational.
 

http://www.bloodyhammers.com/
 

https://www.facebook.com/BloodyHammers


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Monday, September 29, 2014

Free Metal Monday: Soma-Patior


Self-Release/Independent
2014

Available as a free download at the link below, "Patior" is the latest (possibly only?) release from Athens, Greece-based Soma. And for this particular band (who should not to be confused with the long-defunct UK death metal band of the same name or the dark ambient/techno project of Australian composers David Thrussell and Pieter Bourke.) it's all about black metal. Or rather it's black metal of the an experimental nature with the two-track "Patior" clocking in at over ten minutes in length! On paper it's very likely that none of that sounds particularly inspiring or interesting (and Lord knows the blah artwork doesn't help matters much!), but there's more to this band then meets the eye. For you see somewhere in between all the black metal/experimental madness that is "Patior" one can find crude traces of traditional heavy metal and it's that little extra addition (as well as the band's choice to lean closer to fundamental black metal) that makes all the difference! Whether that ultimately appeals to your senses or not this one is free so you really can't go wrong!

http://somathathurts.bandcamp.com/album/patior

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Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad - Subject To Change

Robot Recordings
2014

"Subject To Change" is the sixth full-length release from Bucks County, PA-based rock band Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad. Engineered by Nick Cislak (Commonwealth Choir/Eric Venuto*) and band leader/singer/multi-instrumentalist Joe Ujj at Ujj's own Robot Recordings studio, "Subject To Change" was amazingly enough recorded over the course of a mere three days during which time time Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad put a full five hours worth of material to tape! Naturally this nine-track album features only the best moments from the three-day session with Joe Ujj and his companions (drummers Todd Mason and  J.P. Wasieko, bassist/vocalist RJ Gilligan and keyboardist Joe Montone) navigating the long divide between eighties college rock and mid-period Radiohead! With it's slow build-up and psychedelic after-effects "The Creek" is simply an inspired choice as far as opening numbers go and as the listener comfortably drifts into "Lipstick Hate" the truly dream-like structure of Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad comes to life. Guest guitarist Chris Halford appears on both numbers (as well as the excellent cut "Infinite"!) and his lead work on the album's first three tracks makes "Subject To Change" feel inspired! Of course there is plenty of life to be found beyond the limits of these first few songs. The slightly-charged (ragged) garage rocker "Everyone Deserves The Same Thing", the feed-back heavy "Storm Witch" and "Ride The Pony" (with it's Radiohead on LSD, space-rock greatness!) all offer different perspectives of Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad. And the same goes for melancholy track "Lucky Old Sun". The dreariest moment on "Subject To Change", "Lucky Old Sun" aches with pain and sorrow so it is good fortune that Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad's sixth full-length studio album ends on a more positive note with "Token Of Home". A devilishly-cleaver song, "Token Of Home" combines this band's love of early to mid-period Radiohead, "Their Satanic Majesties Request"-era Rolling Stones, "Maggot Brain"-era Funkadelic and the dynamics of post-grunge into one guitar-heavy cut! With that kind of a number closing out "Subject To Change" there is literally nothing to complain about when it about Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad's latest album. Be sure to head over here to find out more about this band: https://www.facebook.com/birdienumnumandthespiritsquad/info

* Eric Venuto (percussion, vocals and noises) is actual a guest musician on Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad's "Subject To Change".

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Graveyard Shifters-Brainwashed by Moonshine

Eternal Sound Records
2014

"Brainwashed by Moonshine" is the five-track debut EP from Kerava, Finland-based Graveyard Shifters. Formed in the fall of 2013 by lead singer J. Matilainen and drummer/percussionist/backing vocalist A. Salmenoja, with V. Vainionpää (guitars and backup vocals), H. Kansonen (guitars) and J. Sumkin (bass and backup vocals) rounding out the current line-up, Graveyard Shifters list the likes of Mötley Crüe, Disfear, AC/DC, Kvelertak, Motörhead, Napalm Death, The Hellacopters, Skitsystem, Turbonegro, Satyricon and Nasum as influences. Crust punk 'n' roll is what they (Graveyard Shifters) call it, but with band's like Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, AC/DC and The Hellacopters showing up shit-faced drunk to the party and all ready to play "Old Time Rock and Roll" there's plenty of love to go around for punks and bangers alike! With it's inspirational title, "Chicken Cage of Terror" opens the show and from there on out all bets are off as this five-piece band takes the "savage sounds of rock, punk, punk 'n' roll and metal" out for a midnight stroll under the stars and into the minefields! For a debut EP this one packs a wallop with Graveyard Shifters looking to be another Finnish band to keep an ear out for! 

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Midnight-No Mercy for Mayhem

e
Hells Headbangers
2014

About a week ago I was strumming through my vinyl collection when I came across Boulder's "555" and I found myself wondering what Jamie Walters was up to? And then it hit me. Wait, isn't my (One time? Current?) neighbor* doing his thing in Midnight? Sure enough and here it is. "No Mercy for Mayhem" is the latest labor of love from Jamie Walters and company and it's everything that we have come to know and expect from this crass, vile and utterly unholy Cleveland band and then some! The last time we checked in with this black n' rolled, punk speed metal band was by way of the compilation disc "Complete and Total Hell". That was 2012 though and in-between that crazy cool compilation and this full-length endeavor the band released a live album, one EP and and a cover of Venom's "Too Loud (for the Crowd)". That particular Venom cover is as good a place as any to start when discussing Midnight's role in the grand scheme of things. But, here is the thing. Seeing as Midnight draws from such a wide range of sources** and marches to the beat of it's own diabolical drummer (which, at least on the 2CD version of "No Mercy for Mayhem" that features Midnight's previously-mentioned live outing, "Alive on the Streets of Cleveland", would be SS) it's nowhere near that easy to define the who, what and where of this occult outfit. Not that it should be easy to pinpoint Midnight's sound and style! What would be the point of it all if Midnight were just to fall easily into some neat little box? Instead we should just consider who is running this lot and accept the fact that just like the other band's that Jamie (aka: Athenar) has been involved with (Mach II, Sweet Roxx, Boulder, Destructor, Terminal Lovers, Toxic Holocaust (live), Abdullah, King Travolta and Hangnail) Midnight runs things it's own way and they are all the better because of that! "No Mercy for Mayhem" is blackened speed metal and it does contain crusty old punk rock and hardcore reference marks, but it also Midnight's own (unmistakable and unholy) brand of noise! If you've heard Midnight before and dug what the band was thrash rockin' on about then you should snag and bag this new disc (preferably in the two disc format as it's all the more spicy!). If you've never experienced this band before then treed carefully. You should still buy the album (or again, the two disc CD version as it's even tastier!) and all, but I would treed carefully nonetheless! As a final note sometimes I find it amazing that a band like Midnight hails from the hometown of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For all intensive purposes Midnight destroys rock and roll and I mean that in the best way possible! But then maybe rock and roll should be destroyed? Or at least that shame of a building called The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? In it's place we could build a new "holy site" dedicated to Ohio's true saving grace, it's metal scene! And (naturally) right off the bat we would induct bands like Midnight! This time I really think I'm on to something....


*Back before Jamie (aka: Athenar as he is known in Midnight) founded this (killer) blackened speed metal project he played in Boulder (among several other bands). And as it turned out Boulder's contact information happened to be located in my hometown. And yes, It does still boggle my mind that the same (extremely cool) guy that once sent me misc. Boulder merchandise is now fronting one of the most compelling black metal bands out there!

**What I love absolutely about Midnight (besides it's front-man) is how they are able to take what are essentially some of my all-time favorite bands (Motörhead, Tank, Raven, Exciter, Venom, Mantis, (early) Metallica, Megadeath, Slayer, Possessed, (early) Sodom, ("Gates to Purgatory"/"Branded and Exiled'-era) Running Wild, Warrant (the German one duh!), Discharge, The Exploited, Carnivore and (on the newer side of things and also connected to Hells Headbangers) Speedwolf, Crucified Mortals, Tiger Junkies and Intöxicated) and (by way of mystical magic and/or occult practices) turn them into blackened metal mania!  

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Interview with STUD

 This past Thursday (Sept. 25th, 2014 to be exact) I covered "Rust On The Rose", the second full-length release from Finland's STUD. Now it is my absolute pleasure to publish a recent interview that I conducted with this fantastic hard & heavy/heavy rock band! I want to thank STUD for taking time out of their busy schedule to chat with Heavy Metal Time Machine and if you have not had a chance yet to read my review of "Rust On the Rose" then be sure to head over to the following link when you are done here! 

(Coverage of "Rust On The Rose" by STUD)
http://metalmark.blogspot.com/2014/09/stud-rust-on-rose.html

Andy (A): Would you mind introducing the members of STUD and describing your sound or our readers who might not familiar  with your band?

STUD (S): STUD is: Ari Toivanen (vocals), Mika Kansikas (guitar), Matti Jalonen (bass), Tero Kukkonen (drums). Our music is melodic, guitar-oriented hard/heavy rock, where we believe we have our own sound.
If you listen to the two albums we've made you can easily find a tone and a feeling to the music that is unique to us. We also have a variety of songs from hard rock to metal to some ballads as well.
It was very interesting to find out that almost all of the songs from the debut got airplay, and were mentioned as favorites in the album reviews. That proves that we are not just relying on one song. We are confident that same applies to "Rust On The Rose".

A: Your roots go all the way back to 1986! What made you decide to re-form the band after so many years?

S: Most of the guys in the band have been making music in form or another throughout the years.
However, the idea of re-forming the band came up through a project Mika and Tero did together.
There was also lots of cool songs that were never given a chance to be recorded and in that way presented to people. By taking those songs and adding some new ideas we had soon enough material to work with.
You can here the results of that all over the two albums.
A: What was the reaction from friends and family and when you made the announcement official? I would imagine there was as much excitement as there was shock right?

S: At first most of them (that probably includes us as well) thought that this is something that passes by soon, and we would then continue with our "real lives". Well, it hasn't yet ;) For now, the attitude has changed, and people have seen that we really have achieved something more than a happy get-together, and that's been by doing lots of work for the band.

A: Since re-forming it sure sounds as if STUD has been going nonstop. Is there a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm in the band?

S: Going nonstop are exactly right words to describe what we've done. That includes being involved in everything that considers the band, would it be writing songs, recording, booking gigs, doing promotion, etc.
We haven't been waiting for a big record company to pick us up from our rehearsal room and bring us amazing opportunities to choose from. Instead, we've been doing everything by ourselves, of course, with a help of some cool partners, like Metal Revelation that's been doing promo for us. Also Puke Kataja, a super-cool guy (with amazing nerves :)) has been essential for helping to record and mix both of our albums.
At this point, we actually wouldn't mind, if someone would offer those opportunities for us, but we are certainly not going to sit down on our butts and wait for that to happen.
A: Musically a lot has changed since the band since the band first called it quits. Are you amazed by how different everything is?
S: Everything has changed, in good and bad. When we first started there was no way to make a record without a record company, resulting that those who got the deal with a record company actually got quite a lot of attention. Today there are zillions of band that are making records in their home studios and publish them through digital channels, like iTunes, Spotify, Deezer and whatnot. So, in that way it's difficult to get noticed from all the rest. On the other hand, you have the net and lots of cool sites that you can use to promote yourself. In the 80s you just about had stickers or posters to put on the door of the local bar you were playing, now you can promo the gig through Facebook weeks before, and all your fans can be noticed.

A: "Rust On The Rose" has all the hallmarks of a classic rock release and yet here it is 2014! Could you tell us a little about your thought process going into the studio and how you managed to achieve the sound you got?
S: We were really happy with the debut album, so we decided not to change much of the working method for the follow-up. The main idea was to take the lessons learned from the first album and improve for the new album. The most important thing, of course, is to have bunch of good songs to work with.
Right after the first album was ready, we started to work on the new songs, one by one. Every couple of weeks we'd bring a new song for the rehearsals, and many of the songs from "Rust On The Rose" were played on gigs before the actual recording started. So we were well prepared going to studio.
When it comes to the songs, there are some elements that are common to most of them. A typical STUD-song is melodic, energetic, it usually has a cool guitar riff, and the vocals and guitar solos are heartfelt.
Apart from that, there really is not much limits to them. When you compare songs like "Playing To Win", "I Don't Know" and "Break The Chains" for example. They really are different from each other. What really ties them together is Ari's vocals and Mika's guitar sound.
A: Where can fans find out more about STUD and pick up a copy of the new album for themselves?
S: Our Facebook page www.facebook.com/STUDofficial is really the place to get the latest updates from the band. Very soon we will announce where you can pre-order the album. Even though you can get the album from digital channels when it's published, the best way to support the band is to buy a CD.
The CD will be available with worldwide shipping. We'll be also posting samples of the songs to our Facebook pages, so check them out.
A: What's next for the band? Will you be touring behind the new album?

S: There won't be a new album for couple of years, that's for sure. It's now time to take those songs and play them live, and build up the fan base that way too. We are really open to any opportunities to play in front of live audience, and we have already started book gigs to support the album. Releasing our second album is really a dream come true for us, and we are so excited to see how the album will be received by the fans and media. We're going to continue to work hard to present the band to yet larger audiences.
A: I always let artists have the last say. Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your fans?
S: There's so many people around the world that really love rock 'n roll music, just like we do.
If you're one of those, you really should check STUD out, and if you like what you hear, let your friends know about it too. Thanks for having opportunity for this interview, we appreciate it a lot.
Rock on!

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Vengeful Ghoul-Timeless Warfare

Self-Release/Independent
2014

Site-founder, friend and all around cool guy Metal Mark (who incidentally now runs the most excellent Lasers, monsters and barbarians oh, my!) was kind enough to send me "Timeless Warfare", Vengeful Ghoul's first full-length album. For that I must say Mark, thank you. Thank you so very much my friend! The band, which hails from Istanbul, Turkey and was formed in 2005 by rhythm guitarist Senem Ündemir and lead vocalist Emre Kasapoğlu (also of Electrocute), is self-described as "power/thrash metal with traditional elements". That being the case and all, "Timeless Warfare" is not so much "power/thrash metal with traditional elements" as it is doom-infused thrash with some power metal and eighties metal/N.W.O.B.H.M. elements. And nine times out of ten that combination comes across as magical! For this Turkish outfit, which, it must be said, has a pretty wicked moniker (something that Metal Mark and I most certainly agree on!), "Timeless Warfare" comes some ten years after the band's initial formation and in that amount of time they have obvious fine-tuned their sound and style as evident on this solid debut offering. It's best to picture Vengeful Ghoul as a cross between Iced Earth and Sanctuary/Nevermore (only with a wider array of sub-level influences such as King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest/Iron Maiden-styled eighties metal, Dio and doom metal acts like Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Trouble and Candlemass), but even that (slightly-weird) description merely touches the tip of what Vengeful Ghoul has captured (sound-wise) here on tape with "Timeless Warfare". When you have a lead singer who is capable of sounding like Rob Halford one moment and Warrel Dane the next that's one thing, but when you factor is someone as skillful as lead guitarist Özgür Nair (a killer musician who brings to mind everyone from Tony Iommi to Kirk Hammett!) that takes everything to an entirely new level! Without question "Timeless Warfare" is a fantastic debut from this Turkish five-piece and it is a release that demands a wider-audience. Given the absolutely insane amount of garbage metal out there why has a band like this remained unsigned? It's a absolute scandal that a band like Vengeful Ghoul hasn't been scooped up let by some label!  That kind of shit is frustrating when record stores and online outlets routinely gets filed with truly awful crap mislabeled as "new and exciting" or "the next big thing!" and something as cool as "Timeless Warfare" has to be released independently! Regardless, "Timeless Warfare" is one album worth tracking down and acquiring. It's passes all the tests (professional production, excellent craftsmanship and in-depth and widely varied material that still strikes a familiar cord as "Vengeful Ghoul" material) and it makes you want to hear more out of this heavy thrash/doom/power metal act. Other then maybe the slightly dull artwork there is very little not to like about Vengeful Ghoul's first album. But hey, don't just take my word for it. Head on over to the group's Facebook page and discover for yourself why Vengeful Ghoul has me craving more!   

https://www.facebook.com/vengefulghoul

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

John Fairhurst-Saltwater

Self-Release/Independent
2014


First things first my friends and fellow lovers of all things righteous and rocking. The picture posted above is not necessarily the artwork for "Saltwater". As I wouldn't want anyone to go out looking for "Saltwater" and expect to find it based solely upon said picture I thought it would be appropriate to mention that fact up front. Also, I should probably mention and/or warn you right now that the music of John Fairhurst (like any addictive substance) is hard to walk away from ounce you've sampled it. Try as I might I have not been able to kick this habit and it all started the second I tapped into album opener/first single "Breakdown"! As just one of ten new numbers that make up this highly-personal, 46 minutes long debut album, "Breakdown" is blues-rock for those who have lived the blues and for Bristol-based John Fairhurst (a solo artist turned member of the three-piece that bears his name) that one concept started the very minute that he found himself bedridden for an entire year! Having taken a nasty fall down an unmarked manhole while on the job at a building site, John Fairhurst was left with a serious knee injury and bed bound, in pain and emotionally frustrated (all of which only served as fuel to the fire when one is talking about real blues!) he spent a year alone with a National Resonator guitar. Despite the hardship of such an ordeal it proved to be a blessing in disguise as he spent the year developing the virtuoso finger-picking technique that would soon define his style. And the rest is, as they so often say, history. Or is it? For there surely must be more to "Saltwater" then just "Breakdown" right? What about the album's second single "No Shelter"? Scheduled to appear in a new Luke Perry film, "No Shelter" is as blues-based as "Breakdown" only here we're looking at the rougher side of this power trio. And by rougher we're talking about down and dirty rock. Dangerously addictive dirty rock at that! Even more, the same can be said of feedback-rocker (and one of my fave moments of "Saltwater"!) "I'm Coming Home"! Somewhere between this album's first single and "No Shelter" it dawns of you just how far-reaching this trio can get and that is thanks in no small part to John's gruff singing style and the band's appetite for real, honest-to-goodness, rustic music. Move past the rock of "Breakdown" and you have the authentic twang of "Who You Feeling" and the home-grown feel of "More More More". Then there's the gospel-infused and whiskey-soaked "Pay Day" and the heart-heavy "Time Goes By" that captures you with it's roll away the blues look at life. Whether it's a sinful love for down-home blues as offered on "Black Cat" or a track like "Dance In The Pines" that wouldn't seem so out of place on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, "Saltwater" not only has it covered, but it does so by way of wholly organic and meaningful music. Naturally-developed through actual blood, sweat and tears (as well as broken bones!), "Saltwater" found a welcoming heart and soul within me and chances are it can do the same for you!

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STUD-Rust On The Rose

Cranksonic
2014


Due to be released on October 13st, "Rust On The Rose" is the second full-length album from Finnish hard & heavy rockers STUD. First formed way back in 1986, with STUD's first single "Mä Haluun Elää" / "Viimeinen Yö" reported to now be a highly sought-after collector's item(!), the band was initially only active until 1989. Fast-forward to February of 2013 and original members Ari Toivanen (vocals), Mika Kansikas (guitar), Pasi Hietanen (bass, replaced by Matti Jalonen in Feb 2013) and Stenda Kukkonen (drums) decided it was time to pick up where they left off with the ultimate end result being last year's "Out Of The Darkness". Now here it is 2014 and STUD is issuing the follow-up to their 2013 full-length debut album with the the album's first single, "I Don't Know" (no, not the Ozzy Osbourne number!), having dropped this past May. That particular song is heavy and on the radio rock side of life, but for STUD and this 11-track album we're primarily looking at 80's-inspired hard rock (as in hard rock and not the hair metal/glam metal/pop metal nonsense!) that is distinctly STUD-like in nature. By which I mean STUD sounds like STUD first and foremost and in a world of carbon-copy hard rock/heavy rock bands that all look and sound alike that is not only remarkable, but downright refreshing! Starting with the appropriately-titled "Raise Your Fist" STUD rolls up it's sleeves and pulls out the guitar for some real foot-stomping rock and roll with great cuts like "Rock'n Roll World", "Freedom Call" and "Break The Chains" offering cool solos, slick bass work and addictive drumming! While the title cut strikes a slightly different cord while it's almost AOR-styled hard rock and "Poor Man's Buddy" slows things down a little there are songs like "Dangerous" and "I Don't Know" eagerly waiting to balance things out! As stated and just like the group's last album there are 11 tracks here with the near-ballad "Playing To Win" closing things out nicely. Despite the somewhat dull artwork pictured above, "Rust On The Rose" is actual a colorful album with plentiful amounts of energy, finesse and dare I even say it, swagger! Name-checking similar acts for reference points would be a folly, but just as "Freedom Call" pushes things toward an AOR-take on Dio(!) there are "helpful" suggestions should anyone be left wondering where exactly to put a band like STUD in the grand scheme of things. I'd be inclined to at least name AC/DC, Ratt, Montrose, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Bad Company, Ted Nugent, Van Halen, (early) Def Leppard and the Scorpions, but as I typed that list up if still struck me how much these Finnish rockers merely sound like STUD! So, after all of that I'm just going to go with my gut on this one and say that when it comes to "Rust On The Rose" if you like the idea of a band that combines heavy rock, 80's hard rock and the "lighter" side of heavy metal into one art-form (and one that is great benefited by way of the presence of a real rock and roll loving' guitarist by the name of Mika Kansikas!) then you should really try on this band for size. For an album that simply appeared one day in my inbox from out of the blue, "Rust On The Rose" is a pleasant remember of just how enjoyable old-fashioned hard & heavy/heavy rock can be when it's cooked to near-perfection! 

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Doomocracy-The End Is Written

Steel Gallery Records
2014


Formed in 2011 by longtime friends Michael Stavrakakis (vocals), Angelos Tzanis (guitar) and Minas Vasilakis (drums) and calling Heraklion, Crete, Greece home, Doomocracy is a cleverly-named doom metal band (no duh!) influenced by the likes of Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Black Sabbath, Memento Mori and Veni Domine. "The End Is Written" is the full-length debut album from Doomocracy and (if we are going to be perfectly honest here and why shouldn't we?) if you are a fan of any of the bands listed as influences (as well as Trouble, Iron Man and Internal Void) for this Greek metal band then chances are you will really dig what has been laid to tape here on this 46 minute tribute to all things doom! And that is by no means a knock against this five-piece band (bass player Manolis Sx and guitarist Harry Dokos round things out) and their particular take on classic doom. Doomocracy is really good at what they do with the 8-track "The End Is Written" serving as not only a fine introduction to this Greek outfit, but a serious love letter to old-school doom! What's more, Doomocracy (as a whole) is stocked with better then good musicians and a lead singer whose crisp and clear delivery is only matched by some fantastic high-pitched wails! Backed with strong songwriting skills and a production job that plays to Doomocracy's organic nature, "The End Is Written" is a strong showing for this Greek act and one album that I would feel comfortable sharing with traditional doom metal purists!

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