Danzig – Black Laden Crown (Evilive Records 2017)

After the weak sounding covers record Skeletons I didn’t get my hopes up for this release. The sound is in the same sort of low fi Glenn has been doing ever since 7:77 I Luciferi. The songs are doomy and gloomy, mostly slow to mid tempo pieces.

 

Let’s pause a minute to consider the cover art, wow how awful is this cover? Danzig cover art has been a huge part of what has drawn me to the music, especially the Giger drawing of How the Gods Kill, not to mention the classic skull logo or the medieval look of Circle of Snakes. This time around he has chosen to go for the esthetics of his Verotic comic books. I get that he is big into the comic book world, but this cover is too much on the cartoony side for me personally, bit of a disappointment.

 

The sound is very similar to the Deth Red Saboath album. Lyrically this album is better crafted, maybe not as accessible as earlier, but with better quality… quality might not be the right word…shit… they seem less childish and more of a comprehensive body of work.

 

The guitar is heavily overdriven, I’m thinking a thick fuzz sound, Victor likes himself some natural harmonics, so much so that it sort of gets annoying. The riffs themselves are dark, and heavy, reminiscent of Circle of Snakes and 4p. The high, squeaky fills gets a bit much, for my taste. The drums are once again handled by Joey Castillo, who was the from about 95 up through the touring cycle for I, Luciferi in 03. I can’t really say he makes much of an impact on the album. Drums are hollow-sounding and bass-laden, like they’ve been on every danzig-record since the turn of the century. I guess Glenn played the bass and keyboards himself.

 

The opener, which also happens to be the title track, is a sort of half breed between his past half instrumental openers, like Unendlich or Wotans Procession and earlier heavy numbers; like Thirteen or Angel Blake. It’s a slow, but heavy number. Best of all, it has this classic, easy-to-follow Danzig vocal melody. A truly wicked start to the new disc. Eyes Ripping Fire is not a great song, it’s lacking in power and gets dull and seems to drag out, even though it’s only like four minutes long.

 

Devil on Hwy 9, the teaser and the single, isn’t a very good either. The chorus is nice and infectious, but the main riff is just boring and Victor is slightly too active with his fills. I’m sure this will be killer live though, it just falls flat in a studio version.

 

I’ve listened to this album a bunch of times now, and it doesn’t really stick. It kind of falls flat. I get what he’s trying to do with production but when you know that with today’s technology untrained kids can make great sounding stuff in their bedrooms, this low-fi shit doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t sound retro, it doesn’t sound evil, it just sounds half assed.

 

Being a Danzig-fan is hard around the release of new music, because of Danzigs press rounds, he’s now getting to sound like more of a nutcase than Mustaine and that says a bit. Jeebuz man, Glenn says some crazy shit.

 

Let’s end this with: Established Danzig fan? Yes: Get the record, it’s what you expect and want, but with crap production. No: Go to the first four records for some bluesy stuff, record 5 and 6 for some industrial darkness, 7 and 8 for some truly dark, yet somehow popy, music, wait with Black Laden Crown and Deth Red Sabaoth.

 

Recommended tracks: Devil on Hwy 9, Skulls & Daisies

 

Rating: 3 / 5

Overkill – Necroshine (Steamhammer 1999)

Necroshine was the album that got me into Overkill, and it’s the record I measure all other Overkill releases up against. I was aware of the band for many years, never listening to them. I don’t remember exactly how I got a hold of this record, but I loved it from the first snarling of the opening title track: Groovy and heavy, with thoroughly heavy bottom and screeching vocals on top. I still love the track.

My December introduced me to the sing-along chorus side of Overkill. A simple little vocal line, followed by some ooo-ing, that sticks in your brain, and a midtempo, sludgy riff that grooves, builds and pushes ever onwards. Let Us Pray is another groovy, midtempo, heavy tune, with all the greatness of the first two tracks, plus some Sabbath-esque riffing. Stone Cold Jesus is as infectious as the plague and when I hear it, it stays with me for quite some time; great riff, great melodies and amazing arrangement.

There are a few songs that don’t quite measure up; Forked Tongue Kiss, Revelation and I am Fear are somewhat lesser compositions. They all lack that little extra tinge that makes remarkable. Revelation  might be the weakest song Overkill released since the forgettable I Hear Black in ’93.

Black Line is more of an upbeat song then the rest of the record. Lyrically the record is kind of dark and, at times, kind of creepy. Black Line has a bit humor to the lyrics, combine that with a moody but up beat riff and you get a good listening experience.

Dead Man has a massive groove and together with 80 Cycles, are the two strongest tracks on the entire record. The blend of groove, Sabbath-eque riffing pressed together in a thrash soundscape and a sing-along sensibility, you get some great metal. The shifting tempos seem natural and spices up the songs. Absolutely amazing tracks!

The record has a definitive 90s feel to it. The sound and focus on groove, and the fact that most of the songs from this thrash band is midtempo, are all clear evidence of the 90s. If you like(d) this sound and the grooves of Machine Hear or Pantera, give Overkill 90s releases a spin.

Recommended tracks: 80 Cycles, Dead Man, Stone Cold Jesus, Necroshine, My December

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Deep Purple – Infinite (Ear 2017)

Deep Purple, still going and still sounding like Deep Purple. There’s nothing new to either the songwriting or sound of the band. If you like Deep Purple, you will probably like this album too. If you’re a hitpicking Purple listener you might as well just skip this record all together. Just a little side note; is this actually the most stable “mark” of Deep Purple? Is there any constellation of the band that’s been together as long as this particular line up?

Don Airey has kept the sound and feel of Jon Lord, the horrible organ sound of the seventies is still alive and well on Infinite, I really do detest this sound, it screeches in my ears and, just as I do with the older purple songs, I skip these tracks more often than not. Ironically, the first song to stay with me is the organ heavy Hip Boots. Steve Morse is a great blues guitarist, he wrangles that thing and makes it howl and scream when he wants it. Get Me Outta Here has some major licks and so does Roadhouse Blues. The latter being an old fashioned dirty blues tune, borrowing heavy from the yearly decades of last century, complete with harmonica and everything.

Ian Gillan sounds a bit whiney. His voice pretty much sounds the same, but with a tinge whineyness to it. When he brings on the energy, he is magnificent, truly. Ian Paice is steady, groovy, heavy and same old same old. All I Got Is You has that recognizable Piace groove.

This record is for the people who have a past with the band, lets be honest, who else is interested in Deep Purple anymore? This is not a creative masterpiece, it’s rather predictable in its greatness. The musicianship is rock solid and the songwriting is heavy inspired by their back catalogue and true blues rock. I will give them props for playing to their strength rather than experimenting with all kinds of craziness which plagues a lot of aging rockers.

The question is: does the world really need more original material from Deep Purple? Off course it does! Infinite is worth a good spot in any hard rock rotation.

Recommended tracks: Hip Boots, Roudhouse Blues

Rating: 3/5

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand (Reprise 2017)

Mastodon has climbed from a band I hardly cared about up to a band I keep an eye on, and now with Emperor of Sand I think they climb even higher in my attention-tree. Mastodon keeps growing further and further away from the sludge of their earlier album and incorporating more progressive elements and adding melodies.

This might not sit right with fans of their classic sound, all the whining about ‘selling out that’ surfaced on the net when Once More ‘round the Sun was released will, probably, bubble back up. I don’t care; this is the Mastodon I enjoy the most. The band that keeps things groovy, heavy, technical and also incorporates some melody, nice hooks and energy, this is the band I like.

The sludge is by no means gone from the bands sound. The latter part of the record is especially sludge heavy, songs like Andromeda and Scorpion Breath are the best examples of the classic Mastodon style. Mid paced, but high frequency songs, with a lot of drums.

The closer, Jaguar God, is the longest track of the record, just short of 8 minutes. It starts of slow with a long melodic part and some weird vocals, complete with harmonies. After about 2 minutes the mood changes, the sound harshens and tempo increases ever so slightly. After about another minute or so, they start building up and bringing back down the intensity and the song keeps shifting from side to side. Then the tempo kicks up another nudge with some nice guitar work. Suddenly the song takes on an Opeth type of chromatic riffing, but with the intensity on high. Then the song relaxes into a melodic outro, playing on the mood and chords of the intro. What a great song, epic! I love it, just amazing … this is the kind tune that makes me feel … something… it’s journey …

The lead tracks were Sultans Curse, Show Yourself and Andromeda. Show Yourself is the most accessible song on the album, the least complicated so to speak and has hooky chorus that easily sticks and can be hummed immediately. It’s a good song, and catchy. Sultans Curse has more of classic Mastodon sound, more of sludge edge to it. I wasn’t too impressed by this song when it was released as a teaser, however it works great as an opener. It sets the mood perfectly; this is going to be a blend of heaviness, grooves, sludgy, muddy sound and intricate melodies and song structures. Everything one would expect from this band. The song itself might not be their strongest track, but opens up the record in a great way. Andromeda  is heavier than the other two singles, both lyrically and musically. It reminds of Trampled Under Hoof from the debut, without having any major similarities other than the sound.

Steambreather has a few opening notes, before the riff kicks inn, that it’s so similar to Phantom Lord that I had to check if Metallica had snuck into my playlist. The rest of the song is a midtempo, muddy riff, almost a stoner riff on the verse. The chorus is actually to popy sounding to me. Precious Stones is catchy as all hell and seems to made for the grand old men of rock radio, I would imagine Eddie Trunk will go bananas over this track.

The record kind of falls a bit in the middle as Roots Remain, Word to the Wise and Ancient Kingdom  is structured in similar manner and also has communalities in tone and riffs. There is nothing wrong with these songs as single tracks, when they are piled on top of each other like this, it gets a bit pale and boring. Scorpion Breath and Andromeda  brings the focus back, the sludge is thick on both of these and they should speak to old fans, as mentioned above.

Mastodon is kind of heading into dangerous waters now, if they take this popy direction any further they risk a Megadeth fall, think Risk and Supercollider, when the urge to get airplay outweighs the integrity of the musician and the result is awful music, that falls flat for the pop lovers and the rockers. If Mastodon slows down even further they might end up in this exact spot.

But for now, the music sounds inspired and heavy and groovy. The lyrics have lost a little edge. Brann is still a wicked drummer, the three vocalists combo still works.

 

Recommended tracks: Jaguar God, Show Yourself, Steambreather.

Sepultura – Machine Messiah (Nuclear Blast – 2017)

Sepultura is one of those bands that never really interested me. I saw them live back in 04 or 05, opening for Motörhead. Being really impressed by the show, I went out and bought a couple of records; Roots, Beneath the Remains and Chaos A. D. I soon tired of all of them, Beneath the Remains held up a little longer then the rest

They have been on my radar, and I have listened to most of their releases in one form or another, most of them not really cutting it. I hated A-lex, it was just horrible from start to finish, and the Dante record I just didn’t understand.

 

Anyhoo, one day I was checking out new releases on my chosen streaming service and Phantom Self came on and I loved it straight away. It was an instant reaction. The riff is just super heavy and groovy, the vocals are distinct and catchy. I had to check out the rest of the album, when one of the songs was this great.

The album starts off strong; the title track is a slow moody number. It reminds me of Beneath the Silth off of Machine Heads Bloodstone & Diamonds or maybe Planet Caravan. I am the Enemy is a super heavy song, but kind of predictable; fast paced complete with the scream along chorus are known for. Iceberg Dances is the kind of track that grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go. Great song!

 

Sadly, the next four songs don’t cut it for me. They’re predictable and sound a bit by numbers. They’re so formulaic that they turn annoying.

The final track is a good finish. Cyber God is punishing and grueling and extraordinary heavy. With a full on headbanging beat, this must be a great live track, it just has to.

 

I’m not going to join a Sepultura fanclub after this release, it brought them higher on my mountain of metal bands to listen to. But the four song, or the middle part of the album, just … bleh

 

Recommended tracks: Machine Messiah, Cyber God, Phantom Self

Rating: 3 / 5

 

Danko Jones – Wild Cat

Man, I just love Danko. I love the music, the attitude, his podcasts and his writing. He is a genuine rock n roll enthusiast. I consider myself a guy who is quite well versed in the metal, rock and punk scenes, but the people this band sites as influences and as big and important names, I’ve never even heard of. Just another proof that there is always more to discover!

Wild Cat presents a band harking back to its roots, taking small steps forward and showing off some influences. The songs that speak to me the most are the songs in a classic Danko Jones style. Hard riffs, with big stops, fat bass and slightly obscene lyrics. I Gotta Rock, My Little RnR and Revolution are typical examples of the dirty gritty rock that Danko does so well. Danko himself isn’t the best singer in the world, but he’s a damn fine vocalist and front man. When he finds his rowdy voice and speaks in stead of sings and then belts it out on the chorus; that is truly his finest hour.

Let’s start Dancing is different from the rest of the track, every now and again this band release songs that reminds of dance music; fast, repetitive and with a thick rhythm section.. It’s quite catchy, I’ll admit to that fact, but also a “skipper”. The title track is clearly influenced by the seventies hard rock scene and sporting some flat out sexual lyrics. Going Out Tonight reminds me of First Date, one of the bonus tracks on the Sleep is the Enemy album, slightly more punky, but still. Do this Every Night is a sleazy little tune, not in a Steel Panther kind of to obvious way, but in a gritty, bluesy, rock n roll kind of way. Success in Bed is maybe too much on the nose lyrically, but a damn catchy, fun, bluesy tune.

Danko is no shredder in any sort of way, but his guitar tone is fat and heavy, and sometimes almost funky. Calabreses bass is strong and solid, and I’ll just admit it straight away, I’ve lost track of who the drummer, as it has changed too often. Most riffs are in the cross section between punk and rock n roll, except maybe You’re My Woman which sounds like a Thin Lizzy tune, both melodically and musically. I’m not the biggest lizzy fan, but I enjoy most of their music, and I also like this track. Even though this tune is way outside what the bad usually does, it works great.

This record has a few new twists and turns for the band, but everything sound very much like the Danko Jones I’ve come to know and love. It’s just not the band at its best, it’s the band at its medium, for the most part at least.

Recommended tracks: I Gotta Rock, My Little RnR, Success in Bed, You’re My Woman

Rating: 3 / 5

Black Star Riders – Heavy Fire (Nuclear Blast 2017)

Few records impress me as much as The Killer Instinct. I fell head over heels in love that record, and barely listened to anything else for months after its release. When the news that BSR was crowd funding their next full length reached me, I got in on the ground floor. I didn’t get my Heavy Fire copy upon release as promised, but three weeks after the date. I’ve got to say I’m disappointed by this, stand by your words and honor you commitments. Because I’m a gentleman I choose to blame the shipping and / or record company, not the band itself.

Heavy Fire doesn’t keep the impossible quality of the Killer Instinct, but I didn’t expect that either. The album is a nice rock album, just as the debut was, but not brilliant. Some of the lyrics have a high school banality to them, in some cases intended like on Dancing with the wrong girl, but at times it just seems wrong sung by a grown man. The opener and title track sets a rock n roll tone, which is kept throughout the record. Heavy Fire is the kind of track this band does well. It’s got a lot of Lizzy glimpses, some nods to Queen and fifties rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis. When the Night Comes Inn is a bland and boring number that should have been left off the record.

Dancing with the Wrong Girl has 1950’s American dream movie innocence, a naiveté, to it. The riff is fun and excellent, and the lead guitar a couple of minute’s inn is also excellent. I enjoy Who Rides the Tiger for its silliness and catchy main riff. Cold War Love has a real rock n roll groove to it. True Blue Kid is shaping up to be my favorite track of the entire record. It’s got that x-factor that sets it apart and I keep humming the chorus to myself while shopping for groceries. That’s a good sign, trust me.

The first time I heard Ticket to Rise I seriously thought it was a very different take on a certain Beatles classic. The chorus kind of play on the similarities of the titles, but other than that the two songs sound nothing like each other.

This is a good record, not as good the previous record, but that record was phenomenal, out of this world. I will definitely continue to listen to the record and to follow the band. Scott Gorham might be an old man, but he still rocks!

Recommended tracks: True Blue Kid, Heavy Fire, Who Rides the Tiger

Rating: 3,5 / 5