Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Album Review- Baleful Creed- S/T

Locaton:Belfast,Northern Ireland

Now this is a funny one.Northern Irish hard rock quartet have just released their self titled debut album, which is of course a cause for celebration, as any new music from an awesome band should be.Except . . .

 . . .It's not actually technically new music,more their first three EPs collected together in album format, and given a proper physical release.To some, it might seem poinless to review an album which consists of songs that I've already reviewed on a couple of occasions, but actually,'Baleful Creed' represents a perfect opportunity to revisit this sorely underrated Belfast quartet.It also enables me to use my notes from the previous reviews, which, seeing as I'm lazy, works out perfectly(only kidding,notes?!Ha ha ha ha).

For the unitiated, Creed deal in lead heavy, shit kicking hard rock that sounds like The Obsessed jamming on Black Crowes tunes, with a touch of Sabbathian doom and a strong grungy edge.Fronted by the gravel throated Fin Finlay, a man who sounds like he brushes his teeth with Jim Beam and rinses with razor blades, Baleful  Creed are no nonsense sort of chaps, eschewing fairy stuff like autotune  and synths and instead dealing in burnt out,fat stoner tone and massive fucking riffs.The strongest cuts on 'Baleful Creed'  stem from the band's most recent work, 'III':the granite edged Alice In Chains style stomp of opener 'Autumn Leaves' and the gritty briliance of 'Thorazine' just two examples, .'Double F.S' is the shit kicking party anthem Wino tried but failed  to write on Premonition 13's 'Deranged Rock and Roller', while 'Illuminati''s menacing chug and off kilter rhythms are simply killer.

The earlier, more melodic cuts still hold up well though.Current video single 'Crazy Man' is an anthemic widescreen  rocker, John Allen's earthy, soulful lead playing complimenting the granite hewn riffing perfectly.However,songs like 'Suffer In Silence'(ahem) suffer by comparison to more recent cuts, a sense of a band having not quite found their sound yet, and the almost gospel tinged climax to the song is, in all honesty, a little cringy on reflection.

As a collection of songs, 'Baleful Creed' is interesting if you view it as a barometer of how much Creed's sound has changed and evolved over the last couple of years, the band morphing from a Trucker Diablo style 'rawk' band into something darker, more complex and ultimately more exciting.Time will tell what route the band take next, however as it stands, 'Baleful Creed'  is either a perfect opportunity to revisit some awesome songs, or if you're a newcomer, a handy introduction to a great band.

Rating: 7.5/10

For fans of Alice In Chains, The Obsessed, Orange Goblin, Fireball Ministry

Get it here:http://balefulcreed.bandcamp.com/album/baleful-creed

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Album Review-King Bong-'Space Shanties'

Location:Milan, Italy

Label:Moonlight Records

If you like your music as mad as a box of frogs and as stoned as Cheech and Chong on 4/20, then chances are you might dig Italian trio King Bong.Listening to 'Space Shanties', even sober, is a mind bending experience.Epic, doom-infused hymns to the weird and wonderful, the cosmic and bizarre, it's a fantastically fucked up, genre hopping sixty minute trip to the far corners of the universe of the mind.Drawing in influences from psychedelic rock, jazz and stoner doom, the Milan instrumentalist outfit deal less in  traditional songs than tripped out sonic voyages to the beyond.

From the chorus drenched intro to 'Even Fifty Foot Hamsters Have Feelings'  to the closing, burnt out squall of the penultimate 'Cthulu', 'Space Shanties'  is a  blast.Recorded live, with no overdubs, the album has a pleasingly raw quality that can be missing from a lot of modern psyche.Much like countrymen Prehistoric Pigs,KB play a brand of raw, epic , almost punky psychedelic rock that demands to be heard live,preferably stoned to the nines with a cold beer in hand.Picture early Sabbath on Zappa's drugs, as crass a comparison as that may be it's the closest you can get to an accurate description of the free form madness of King Bong.The album also pulls off the trick of being jammy without ever becoming monotonous or too self indulgent,a lesson you really wish they'd pass on to some of their peers.There's also a healthy experimental bent, another trait Bong share with Prehistoric Pigs, time signatures being fucked with continually, and some clever and effective use of pedals to create some rather tasty sonic textures.This is 'stoner' music in the proper sense of the word, smoked out, tripping balls and toasted, nicely toasted. . .

With modern stoner rock fast becoming awash with self referential cliches,it's refreshing to hear a band that doesn't merely go through the motions in C Sharp as so many others do, and it also points to the strength of the Italian psyche/stoner/doom/scene right now, with great bands like the aforementioned Pigs, Ufomammut and now King Bong pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved within the realms of stoner/doom/psyche.Parental advisory;may contain fuzz.


For fans of: Stinking Lizaveta, Prehistoric Pigs, Summer Baccanalia, Jimi Hendrix

Monday, September 23, 2013

EP Review - Mals Totem-S/T

Location:Boston, MA, USA

Release Date: 16/09/2013

'Post-hardcore'.What does the term mean to you?

If you're under the age of 25, it can evoke images of dreadful crab-core scene bands bleating tunelessly while attempting to balance the combed weight of 40mm tunnels and their  epic day-glo fringes on under nourished frames by rocking back and forth on monitors with their heads tilted sideways and running between the crowd and the drummer fifty odd times a show.(Design The Skyline anyone?)However, for people like me, who are,  like, all old and shit and remember These Arms Are Snakes and Refused before they were a burnt out nostalgia act, the movement represented a refreshing alternative to the brainless belligerence of bands like Hatebreed and Throwdown, and gave a generation of backpack wearing vegan hardcore kids their own style icons in the likes of Cedric Bixler and that bloke from Thrice.

The debut EP from Boston quintet Mals Totem recalls some of those great bands in parts, but also adds in a progressive sensibility and songwriting nous that's all the band's own.Witness the nuanced staccato riffing and falsetto vocals of opener 'Strangest Motion' and be reminded of gems by the now forgotten likes of Christiansen, with the band twisting and turning through time changes like men possessed, vocalist Dave Vives unleashing a furious howl that recalls a more grounded Bixler.The band veer between furious post-hardcore riffing and more subdued, almost jazzy passages, a little like a more chilled out, less black metally, less Italian Ephel Duath at times, at others recalling early At The Drive In.The band are remarkable  musicians, especially Vives, who displays a remarkable vocal range, and acts as the band's focal point,his passionate delivery a counterpoint to the clinical musicianship displayed.There are moments of utter brilliance;'Grind Tune' displays more ideas and invention in its 5 minutes 20 seconds than bands like Funeral For A Friend have their entire careers, while 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place' is eerily beautiful, like a heavier Radiohead channelling . . .And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's mellower moments.

Overall, it's a strong collection of songs from a clearly talented and endlessly inventive band.However, at times, it's all a little too polite, a tad polished.Songs this great demand to roar from your speakers and grab you by the(figurative,aural) nads, but the production is just a little too quiet at times for my tastes.One can imagine that the band slay live, and it would be nice to hear more of a live, aggressive sound on another recording.Still, like the moody nihilistic bastard I am, as usual I'm nitpicking, and if there is one thing I have to say about Mals Totem it's this:if this is what they produce on their debut, it's scary to think what they're capable of in the future.Definitely recommended listening.


For fans of:Christiansen, At The Drive In, Enemies, The Mars Volta, ....And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

 Listen to/Stream/Download it here:http://malstotem.bandcamp.com/


Friday, September 20, 2013

Live Review- Lotus Eater Album Launch with New Secret Weapon-September 13th 2013 @The Grand Social, Dublin

Somewhere between  the ordeal of navigating our way through the maze of corridors and fifty seven magic doors that constitute Dublin venue The Grand Social and the time we order our first beers, my girlfriend turns to me and remarks that Lotuseater, whose music I've  introduced to her just a couple of days previous, are not really the sort of thing she ever expected me to listen to.

"Why?" , I answer, "I like all sorts."

"Yeah I know, but y'know usually . . ."

She trails off , but what she meant to say is:

  "Usually the gigs you bring me to consist of some bearded blokes roaring at an audience that contains more bearded blokes, and me, and playing instruments far too loud, that are tuned far too low for comfort, in a basement that smells faintly of piss.".

Yet here we are, and for good reason.Lotuseater rock, maybe not in the smash your face in, stomp you with a million riffs and a wall of distortion kinda way , but in a more subtle  way, crafting songs that defy genre barriers and scene limitations, and tonight they're launching their long awaited debut album, 'Feed Me To The Night' , the culmination of two years hard work writing and demoing(review to follow shortly on this here blog).Fittingly for a band as unconventional as they tend to be, tonight is less your average launch gig,and more of a wee soiree, with the audience treated more as invited guests than just some punters to entertain.

Greeted at the venue door by none other than Lotuseater frontwoman Siobhan Kavanagh, who is wearing one of the most fantastically elaborate, if least practical dresses I have ever laid eyes on,we are informed  that the show is going to be delayed a little,so she invites us to get a drink, and assures us things will kick off soon.Now there are two things that I love about this.One, that the singer of the headlining band is dressed like she's the protagonist in Alice in Wonderland, if Alice fronted a trip-hop/rock crossover band, and two, that she's actually bothering at all to greet people as they walk in, as if this was some elaborate dinner party and not her band's album launch.Furthermore, when we are ushered inside a few minutes later, she then proceeds to walk around the rapidly growing crowd and hand out elegantly designed miniature cupcakes from a box, while the evening's first support act, a very talented bellydancer by the name of Kadri, performs a short routine to the strains of Lana Del Rey.

Given that The Grand Social appears to have a strict enough curfew, the music proper kicks off quite early, with New Secret Weapon up on stage well before nine.Not a band I'd ever heard before tonight,or even really heard of, to say I was caught unawares is an understatement.Picture latter day QOTSA force-fed a ton of hallucinogenic drugs and then let loose on the Primus song book, and you might begin to describe the fucked up noise being visited upon us.Bizarre, schizophrenic tunes infused with a skewed pop sensibility and played with the fervour of men possessed,their set is a delight to behold.Drummer Trevor Keogh acts as a fulcrum from which singer/guitarist David Griffin and bassist Mark O'Connor are allowed to indulge their own brand of fucked up rockarolla , peppered with the odd nod to country and funk here and there.Essential stuff, and a fantastic live act.

Most other nights, New Secret Weapon would have walked off with the show tucked under their arm like a fat child with some stale half price Tesco doughnuts on a summer's eve, but most other nights aren't Lotuseater's night.Flanked by be suited guitarist Aiden Norris and bassist Ciaran Timmy Lynch, Kavanagh  strides onstage,   unleashes that fantastic depth charge of a voice and the audience are putty in their hands in about ten seconds flat.Lotuseater ,as I said before, rock live, but not so much in a CIRCLE PIT!! kinda way, more in the sense that everything, the performance, stage presence and sheer quality of the songs on offer combines to make an extremely satisfying whole.

Lotus Eater rocking the Grand Social, and some suits.

At the heart of Lotuseater's unique and beguiling sound is Kavanagh,  and this is especially obvious live.A magnetic, powerful front woman both in terms of her musical ability and stage presence during songs, between them she's endearingly chatty and down to earth, even coming across as a little bit shy and nervous at times.There's no attempt at a diva like persona or any tired platitudes thrown at the audience telling them they're the best crowd the band have ever seen etc.Instead, Lotuseater for the most part  let the music do the talking for them,a wise decision.Trying to sum up Lotuseater's eerily funky, left of centre sound in terms of genre or comparisons to other bands is pointless and vulgar, suffice to say there's really very few bands who sound like this.Live, their musical chops become apparent;the funk-punk juggernaut of 'Bless Your Efforts' , the murky beauty of 'Blue Lagoon' , the Muse-esque histrionics of 'It's All Too Late' ,all performed with a muso's flair, but a rock band's enthusiasm and passion.Drummer Cion O Ceallaghain is the band's engine room, deftly unperpinning the band's sonic explorations and locking in with bassist Lynch seamlessly.As the band's set progresses, so too  does the fervour of the audience increase; a hefty tattooed bloke in a Tapout wifebeater near me dances  like a charmed Indian cobra, and the gig photographer at one point forgets what he's doing and starts jumping up and down, expensive Canon bouncing along with him.

Like I said, not your typical launch gig then, but not your typical band.My girlfriend remarks to me as we leave that she's utterly blown away, and demands to know when the band are playing again.

Soon enough I reckon, but first we should hit a couple of  hardcore shows.


Stephen O' Connor, Born Again Nihilist

Check Lotuseater out here: http://www.seekthelotus.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/LotusEater/189612644391375?fref=ts

Check New Secret Weapon out here:http://www.reverbnation.com/newsecretweapon?page_view_source=facebook_app

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newsecretweaponofficial?fref=ts