Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Prisoners - Back in the USSA


The Prisoners
Back in the USSA
Smog Veil

Unrelated to the British mod revival act, the Cleveland-based Prisoners write tunes aching with promise and melody, as if at any moment they might break into the classic rock stratosphere. But the group is as ragged as a flag after a hurricane, with loose arrangements, imprecise singing and more commitment than technique. In other words, it’s sloppy, spirited and totally great. Some of it (Teenage Shatner, You’re Goin’ Down) rocks hard, some of it (Tied Up in Shadows, Society’s Bitch) weeps in its beer, occasionally it waves a lighter (Evangeline) and sometimes it even two-steps (Little Old Me, which features beautifully raw slide guitar). Frontdude Jason Look sings everything like he just woke up with the mother(fucker) of all hangovers, yet he’s driven to bare his soul anyway. Admittedly, there’s little here the Replacements (or long-gone acolytes like the Oysters and the Pedaljets) haven’t already done, especially back in the mid 80s. But how many bands can you name that truly carry on the ‘Mats’ rock & roll standards? Not too damn many, we reckon. So give the Prisoners your time and attention – they’re what rock & roll is all about.

- Michael Toland

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Golden Boys - Electric Wolfman
Alien Snatch

Austin Texas low-fi high-heart, bar-bait groove-rockers pour steaming party jams and kooky kicks with righteous not right-on inventive intentions like Exile on grain street with sweet rye smiles encompassing velvets spunaround mantras like Lou Reed slipped down streets with Sly & got soul but more than that it slips galaxie drifts of the erratic, ecstatic spirited shambolic majesty of Alex Chilton's LIKE FLIES ON SHERBERT sozzled styles, none moreso than kontroll girls, the aura of ramshackle paralytic Keatsy-cute bum-rushers The Black Lips (see, especially plainsman's lament) & the ramblin', perfectly legitimate child of Roky Erickson (the whole truth & nuthin' ever whatso but, hombre's & compadr-esses) that is the stone circle spinning skyclad swirl of goddamn i live the ocean. Texas, as I've ruminated on at least twice before, rarely lets ya down. 'This is how we play' & 'This is where we play' they sing on a message from ross johnson. Burn the map. Just lead me to the water.
Stu Gibson

Monday, July 26, 2010

Darrell Bath - Love and Hurt


Darrell Bath
Love and Hurt
Angel Air

Guitarist Darrell Bath has quite a resumé. He’s slung his axe in the service of the UK Subs, Ian Hunter, Nikki Sudden, Dave Kusworth, the Dogs D’amour, Medicine Head and other names not well known to us Yanks. He also co-led the criminally obscure rock & roll outfit the Crybabys with the BoysHonest John Plain and released a pseudo band album under the name Sabre Jet. His tasteful, rocking guitar magic has been the faerie dust on albums as essential as Sudden’s The Truth Doesn’t Matter, the Dogs’ More Unchartered Heights of Disgrace and Hunter’s Dirty Laundry (to which he contributed Never Trust a Blonde, a staple of his sets to this day). All this is to say: the dude’s got more street cred than Alan Moore has hair, if those streets lead to various dives and bars in the rougher London neighborhoods.

What he’s also got is beaucoups of soul, as evidenced by Love and Hurt. Bath’s first and so far only official solo album was originally released in 2001 on a tiny label that was an outgrowth of a record shop, neither of which exist anymore. Fortunately the obsessives at Angel Air have plucked the record from the dustbins of history and replaced it before our eyes and ears, and we’re all the better for it. Given the opportunity to really show off his six-string fire, Bath the guitarist instead chooses to concentrate on Bath the songwriter, applying the lessons he’s learned at the feet of Hunter, Sudden, et al to make the record that Ronnie Wood might have made if he’d let his Faces mate Ronnie Lane produce it. And sing it. And write the songs.

No doubt much to the disappointment of those expecting Bath to rock the fuck out like he’s had too many drinks and can’t tell his amp is cranked to 15, the record heavily features low-key, C&W-fueled ballads and midtempo groovers. But sedate doesn’t mean sleepy – there’s no bullshit to be shoveled or fat to be trimmed here, and thus no sluggishness allowed. To Die For (You gotta lotta soul/Show me the way to go – what lady could resist that?), Gimme a Choice and Stop Talkin’ Bout Money rock modestly but surely, raising the pulse without kicking up a fuss. Bit of Your Pride (featuring a mournful lap steel), Don’t Go Waistin’ [sic] My Heart and the title track get straight to the melancholy heart of the matter, gently pinning a bruised heart to a tattered sleeve. The 12-string and steel-adorned Tumbleweed sounds for all the world like it was captured on the back porch of a homestead out in the desert under a canopy of stars. Led by Bath’s ultra-tasteful guitar work and conversational keen, the tracks waste no time on theatrics and just channel the man’s soul into your speakers.

This edition comes with a pair of bonus tracks, both covers. The weary but satisfied All the Good Times, penned by Sudden, comes from the sessions for The Truth Doesn’t Matter, ranking with the best of that brilliant record. Aftermath nugget Flight 505 hails from an obscure Swedish Rolling Stones tribute and showcases Bath at his most desperately rocking, channeling both Keith Richards and Woody at the same time with his solo. The songs make great adjunct tracks, but in truth they’re not needed. Darrell Bath requires little help from ringers to draw attention to his gifts. Love and Hurt is the album fantasized about by the grizzled romantic in us all.

- Michael Toland
Judas Priest - British Steel (30th Anniversary Edition)
Sony

'Pounding the world like a battering ram' - Rapid Fire

As a statement of intent / article of faith you can't really get more inciting than that as an opening line for a metal album. This ultra influential slab of well, british steel, gets the remastering massage for unleashment once again this time armed with DVD of a 30th anniversary live show. Along with Motorhead's ACE OF SPADES this originally sneered onto the streets in post-punk Britain 1980 like the metal godding daddy of the embryonic NWOBHM bringing dawn and cementing the eighties as a metal decade. Newcomers can see the influence on Maiden, Metallica, Dio and beyond to battle metal. Time may have tamed it's impact though not it's temerity. It's a stern, staunch tirade & a lotta fun. Opening barricade Rapid Fire is like a blueprint for Killers (the track) & Metal Gods ('engulfed in motorbreath'). Despite overdoing the penchant for fist in the air metallers all together now of United (see also Rose Tattoo's cringing, vehemently un-angry, menacing-as-mash-potato plod We Can't Be Beaten) though the sci-fi stained Metal Gods is a classic of lumbering molten intent to soundtrack any Cronenberg (I'll leave you to ponder Proust-like on Freudian lines like 'Ripping men apart...'). Halford's enunciation matches the gristly guitar gouges, strafing speakers from severe to Teutonically as well as Tamworthly industrial but still bolstered with sinewy bluesy soul. The Rage may surprise (and/or sicken) some with it's 'oooh look at that Sting feller, eh?' cod-reggae insertions but it's really the bruisers here you need - namely ballistic scalpers Breaking The Law (Priests's Paranoid), Grinder, Steeler & Living After Midnight. For the hardcore it's a little treasure though perhaps not a whole chest-thumping trove. I can imagine they (as I did & I'm far from a die-hard Priest proselytiser) would be well nourished by some contemporary live clips & more bonus tracks than Red White & Blue (which is far from Lizzy doing Roisin Dubh: A Rock Legend though oddly stirring, like Priest at the Proms) and a live Grinder, that suggest the sort of afterthought that came with the initial influx of CD's when label Asskiss&Rip-off berks tried to justify their expense accounts by inserting a paltry live cut or random b-side. That slight niggle aside, this is pretty high on list of essential metal albums (& if you have no idea what they are then you should really go get this), the concert invokes enough power, glory &, importantly, passion to overlook how far Maiden surpassed them and the gloriously down to earth 'making of...' documentary (including how Living... came about) provides an interesting, if not illuminating, backdrop to the whole.

'That's what metal'll do - it'll make you a resilient person...' - Rob Halford
Stu Gibson
British Steel 30th Anniversary Promo Clip

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Boris & Ian Astbury - BXI


Boris & Ian Astbury
BXI
Southern Lord

I ain’t gonna lie: when I first heard that Cult leader Ian Astbury was gonna collaborate with experimental Japanese heavy rock trio Boris, my first thought was “Oh god, why?” Boris’ work is always interesting, frequently astonishing, even transcendent. Astbury is, well, Astbury. Either you can tolerate his off-key, testosterone-addled bleat or you can’t. If you could see the shudder going down my spine every time I typed his name, you wouldn’t wonder which side of the fence I stand on.

So imagine my surprise at how hard I’m falling for BXI. Boris plays it straight here, eschewing its tendencies towards drone for straightahead, chunky hard rock, all brutal riffs, lysergic solos and powerhouse drumming. Astbury is his usual self, minus a few edges shaved off – he wails less, perhaps due to advancing age, though he’s probably more atonal than usual. But, astonishingly, that fits Boris’ dinosaur-stomped soundscapes perfectly, as if this is the music for which Astbury’s been searching his entire life. (At the very least it’s gotta beat fronting the tattered remains of the Doors.) His gothic roar sits astride Teeth and Claws and We Are the Wolves as comfortably as Zeus atop Mount Olympus, while his melodramatic croon suits the ballad Magickal Child perfectly. Surrounded by a storm of Takeshi and Wata’s six-string fury and Atsuo’s extraordinary drum kit abuse, Astbury sounds more powerful, more graceful, more – dare it be said – soulful than he ever has in his long career.

The EP’s capper, though, might very well be the song on which Astbury doesn’t appear. In tribute to its new comrade, Boris covers the Cult classic Rain, slipping into the song’s psychedelic hipshake as if born to it, with Atsuo’s grooving drums and Wata’s ethereal vocals leading the way. It’s fuckin’ brilliant, in a way I never thought a Cult song could be – it almost makes me want to go back to the band’s catalog to see what else I might have missed. Until then, though, I’ll happily spin BXI repeatedly and marvel at how redemption can find even the most unlikely suspects.

- Michael Toland
The Shadowcops - A Big Pot Of Hot
TNS

'I'm on my own a wild life tamed stuck here on my own a dream I had always comes to a close hey sitting by me want to stay sitting by me want to fuck sitting by me shutup cannot say what I want to say I've just fallen in love with being alone' - Vaulted Sky

For a few months towards the tail end of merry '08 & on into early '09 these riff-rioteers were serious contenders to go stampeding over the top (& not solely as they did the cover in my front room), hamstringing sundry sulky little indie windbags & slashing piss-spikes down the crevices just one pick-strike on a string of opener Vehement Subterfuge would tear in the necks of cartilege deficient supposedly brutal metal militants who largely just tantrumise a semi-tone lower. They really shoulda done but they too fell foul of the half-unwritten law of Mancycussed noise barstads by splitting up after they released their debut album (see Jackie O, The fucking glorious Vipers, Black Fiction - who went as far as having 'em pressed up then shelving it, Tsuji Giri - not sure if my front room caused it or having me help screech 'I break the lightning' on Fulgura Frango but The Curse Of The 'Bow may or may not have played a part). There's nowt to stop you still getting this though. After all you're a ravenous addict of the derelict failures staining rock's great frock coat, aren't you? (And possibly are stricken with a fetish for pictures of Mozz dressed as a pissed priest sat in my living room). Admittedly, playing this again for the first time in a while & away from the tattered edges of tramp chaos it sounds even better, like a short spell of sobriety has given it a digital replastering. Much influenced and inspired by US hardcore like Husker Du and The Replacements (the silly buggers got me to sing Bastards Of Young with 'em a coupla times), The Wildhearts gone sci-fi as well as splattermanic, only more ballistically MASSIVE, especially in the twisting song structures that disperse riffs like Katyushka rocket launches that'd have Ginger & Tony Iommi palpitations this really should be heard outside the few shitpits they played before stalling.

'Knocked out slipped in someone's dignity help me out I want another fucking drink' - Take Yours Dave
Stu Gibson

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Clusterfuck of Bands - A Fistful Of Rock N Roll Vol 13, Part 2 & 3
Steel Cage

My band/house budstar Kurt Dirt mentioned the other day about being disillusioned with punk. Fair enough (or maybe he'd heard me blasting The Dangerous Aces album next door too often) but it transpires it put a spark in my itinerant subconscious p'raps to test that theory, especially as it coincided with me digging out rekkids from bygone days & danger ways in a long delayed spurt of hypermanic activity. I discovered this beast grimacing at me from the 'to do' piles that Steel Cage sent me ages ago (apologies, guys) and did stick it in my ailing stereotonic system, initially with the intention of giving it a desultory spin before shovelling it on a passing shelf in a great quest for tidiness through sobriety, but the grin as the grit ground out the speakers meant that anyhoop hop pop it's been on pretty much constantly the last few days, for it surely is a treat of sonic splutterings to make putrid soup of the secret service disinformation campaign that sees Dead Weather, The Black Keys & numberless nameless pop-punk whimperers keeping the sleeveless Knievel, evil colonel & whiskey wimmins stuff like this in the trenches. But it's always thus, huh? With an all seeing eye searching out the incandescent from the seething swamps of trashtowns for your glistening pleasure, there's almost no trace of any misfirings, blanks or non-starters & a voracious amount of rippling energy & drooling, drawling door splintering raw power & Runaway Radio Birdman influenced rawk is here just about ready to explode in your face - much of which seems to be shared between the charred larynxes of Aussie The Dead Set, Dutch devils on toxic detours Peter Pan Speedrock and New Yorkers The Compulsions - while waiting for you to plug in then turn on ya baby. Alongside notables of the calibre of Japan's sake-crazed Thee Michelle Gun Elephant* (Smokin Billy which their accents render cutely as 'Biwwrweee'), The Makers with Too Many Fuckers On The Street (from ROCK STAR GOD, one of the greatest slabs of rock muscles flexing ever), Therapy? (the list of demands from an alien landing on Rock You Monkeys), PPSR** and Danko Jones there's arcane classics from Midnight Rapture, The Kamikazes, (whose respective turns Deliver Me & Time For Rock N Roll are two stand-outs you should volunteer to have secreted indiscreetly 'pon your soul) Firestone (awe-slaking disembowelling stoner sludge with ultra-slut stripping bass), the jump-for-joy Joan Jett Joan Jett on a Lydia Lunch flinging pants-blaster of Patti Rhodes & The Mystery Kids, The Coma-Tones slack-jawed sleaze, Lofreq's evil 'DC, and hellbilly stoner skronk of Chapstick, recalling the glories of Cretin 66. High voltage, Hi-watt, High octane & so on all day & all night this'll really get ya good & gone. CD1 outwieghs its pardner, though punching through the ceiling comes the Amps 11 Eleven's broiling in a bullpen cowboy ruck of Sabbath's Hole In The Sky & Overkill & the ever mighty-monikered Crank County Daredevils and Secret Squirrel Society. All in all it's still a resolutely star-toasting Sunday slut service.
Stu Gibson
*Thee Michelle Gun Elephant
**Peter Pan Speedrock
Dead Brothers - 5th Sin-Phonie
Voodoo Rhythm

A more than welcome return to the frayed edges of menace and decadence with no refrain for the disembodied eternal wake of Matthias Lincke and Alain Croubalian. They themselves call it Delinquent Jazz, which is an adequate enticement to decant this Pandora's frock full of enchantments. Exotic Odyssey contains a line about 'toxic rhumba' - both terms which also may suffice and let little slivers of light into their open-plan big store of secret charms, cobwebs, grimoires, cookbooks for crackpots, dissections and anatomical defects too drastic even for the Hunterian Museum*. Whatever it is this is a macabre descent into fantastical grotesque fields of fancy like stepping over a crack in the pavement and finding yourself navigating winding hilltop passes where you sense you're being watched and wisps of these songs are carried on the breeze. Or are they voices from the ridge beyond you luring you perilously close to crevices that may be the end of the path or a gap in your mind you have a strange desire to plummet down like some sacred fruit of instinct? This is cross-continental music of the mountains fusing pilgrim gospel, gypsy jigs and grimly gripping and uplifting death dirges with snake-charm waltzes, chamber-group orchestrations and sinister Deutsche language incantations (Langenthal) that will resurrect shadows in your complacency when least expected. Oh and surreptitious covers of Bela Lugosi's Dead and Teenage Kicks that go beyond any insinuations of novelty by benefitting greatly from the cello-led cortege supplied by these waiters of the wastelands.
Stu Gibson
*Hunterian Museum
Th Legendary Shack Shakers - Agri . dustrial
Colonel Knowledge / Thirty Tigers

'It's a full-time gig eatin' sin-on-the-cob' - Sin Eater

'Nothing here grows but grey hairs in our coffins' - The Lost Cause

Fittingly entitled little number as this new state of the damned nation from glowering inferno Colonel J.D. Wilkes and crew immerse their already incendiary slurry of haunted Southern hillbilly cow'n'tree barrage into pricklier hedges and sledgehammer it with heavier, darker broadsides courtesy of two-pronged scheme of new git-tar heister Duane Denison of Jesus Lizard and Tomahawk and their sampling of scrapyard desecration (well, a blacksmith's yard) to use as per(con?)cussion. Tis a combination spawning a worthy harvest, despite its claustrophobic aura and tendency to merge into one morass as it hurtles around the edges of a stricken society. LAND OF RAPE AND HONEY it ain't, nor does it surpass the bazookabilly glee and system shock of debut COCKADOODLEDON'T, but tracks such as, Sin Eater, Two Tickets, Dixie Iron Fist, the spoken word recounting of murders hot off the press The Hills Of Hell and glorious church service waltz of The Lost Cause all serve to construct a short, stark, scathing testament to darkening times. Ploughing history and allegory more than say Dead Kennedy's direct political swipes and satire it nevertheless stands as a staunch express courier service of provocation with the likes of Steve Earle, Henry Rollins and fan Jello Biaffra.

'Well, the Law is like sausage; they both are great
But nobody wants to see how either get made' - Nightride

Stu Gibson

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Night Horse - Perdition Hymns


Night Horse
Perdition Hymns
Tee Pee

It’s hard to make 70s-style hard rock sound new anymore. It’s been around the block so damn many times, not only in the Me Decade but even now – just check your average underground rock club. That’s not to say a lot of the revivalist acts aren’t good– just that they have a distinctly retro whiff coming off of them, making them mostly guilty pleasures. But there are some bands who play the style not as a retreat from or reaction to any perceived flaws in modern music, but just because for them it’s timeless and they dig it.

Night Norse
is one of those bands. While the L.A. quintet draws on familiar sources – Foghat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Faces – for the stew served on Perdition Hymns, it tastes remarkably fresh. That’s partly because, like its Midwestern contemporary Five Horse Johnson, the band incorporates the blues without really being a blues band – it understands the essence without feeling the need to prove its prowess. (Cf. Same Old Blues, a ballad that has more in common with Charles Brown than the Allman Bros.) It’s also partly because of things like the psychedelic guitar intro of Hard to Bear or the charisma of vocalist Sam James Velde. Mainly, though, it’s because the Horse means it. The band writes robust songs a la Angel Eyes, Shake Your Blues and Black Clouds (the soulful ballad the Black Crowes have trying to create for two decades) and plays ‘em with neither irony nor melodrama. Perdition Hymns is the kind of meat and potatoes rock & roll that reminds you why such simple, wholesome fare is so nutritious in the first place.

- Michael Toland

Hillstomp - Darker the Night


Hillstomp
Darker the Night
In Music We Trust

Few bands are as evocatively named as Portland duo Hillstomp. You want backwoods hillbilly raveups? You got it – check Banjo Song #s1 & 2, Old Plank Road and Cold Dark Woods. Or would you prefer juke joint blues stomps? You get those, too – cf. S.I.R., Up Here and Cardiac Arrest in D. You also get a nimble banjo instrumental (Blue Tick), an earnestly performed folk tune (Crawdad Hole), a percussion-driven field chant (Hammer Ring) and bluesy gospel (the title track). If there’s American music made before major labels swooped in, packaged and marketed the shit out of it, Hillstomp is into it. Make no mistake, though – this is no nostalgia act. Guitarist Henry Christian and drummer John Johnson don’t pretend they’re black or Appalachian natives – they just treat the music with the respect a timeless sound deserves, whether they’re kicking out originals or classics like Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Got to Move.” Raw but ramshackle, faithful to the spirit of its inspirations but not contrived or affected, Hillstomp uses old-time, pre-rock & roll music to rock your fucking face off. Awesome.

- Michael Toland
Delaney Davidson - Self Decapitation
Voodoo Rhythm

'I went down to the lake
I saw your mammy fuckin a snake' -

New Zealand native Davidson checking in with a cause for all those contrivedly whimsical, scarcely literate carny fakers to really get a quakin' about and all the rest to check what's cluttering up this tattered suitcase of clusterbomb country and piston-snapping blues for bedtimes that bleed slime - a mere cursory glance of which could instigate an inter-continental Custer-flunk. Third solo album and first on the venerable Beatman's Voodoo label (and featuring the director of les diabolique himself on git-tar) may mine fertile descents of murder ballad badlands and rancorous hankerings, but it butchers and maims them all to it's own drill-bit of devilment as it wends it's way on creepy journey like a tourniquet scrinching your soul, the caskets of curiosity filling your old hats and digging new holes for gateposts. You can see why he's a one time member of unstable same-label ghouls The Dead Brothers* and a compatibe touring compadre of the unimpeachable Possessed By Paul James. There's a real undaunted, devout air of dread ready to devour any undaring companions winding through the woodland whistles, Slavic brass breakdowns, Spaghetti western that spooked poor Hetty in perpetuity (the velvetly mourning Lee Hazlewood intonement Seasons Of God), canyon-cracking cowpunk and atomic boomchickaboomboomboom (I Slept Late) to industrial Leadbelly (In The Pines), Syd Barrett possessing latter-day Leonard Cohen spectrals (Tonight), flambed flamenco (Lackie's Men) to sporadic episodes of deranged dwarf polka romps devoid of self-conscious pomp 'n ceremony that'll put creaks in any floorboards and cracks in many a skull all regaled with a voice both caustic and sinister but equally capable of cauterising nocturnal brain abrasions as much as it capsizes your sanctity, all a-hover in the hollow-bodied echo of aeons. This guy's done some hard ramblin' that he transmutes into majestically macabre sermons of enticement to enchant the straggler who's finally wising up to the bohemian tedium 'oooh i'm mad me, ain't I, Joe' of little boring cuntlroy's that litter the aching, gratingly hip alleys of this eastern european gypsy-punk speckled birdcage. The bastard swagger of Magpie Song, at the gritty, gallows end succinctly spits on all that has passed. On the record and p'raps most of these last years. If there is Deliverance in the darklands, then d-d-d-d-d-doooo deliver our sorry asses to Davidson Holler, dog dammit.
Stu Gibson
*Dead Brothers

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Zoroaster - Matador


Zoroaster
Matador
E1

Zoroaster has always dusted its Southern-fried metallic doom with a healthy amount of angel dust. But for Matador (full-length album #3), the Atlanta trio hasn’t just drunk the Kool-Aid – it’s bathed in it. Encrusted with enough reverb and echo to make Hawkwind shiver with pleasure, Firewater, Odyssey and Black Hole toss great fistfuls of hardening lava into the deepest reaches of outer space. Odyssey II and Old World luxuriate in psychedelic texture and cosmic meditation, contemplating their beards with ears glued to amplifiers. The massive influx of psilocybin admittedly makes the band less heavy than on previous platters, but trading poundage for freakiness seems like a fair trade to me. The next time you’re blasting off to visit the Blue Area of the moon to commune with the Watcher, Matador is your soundtrack.

- Michael Toland

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Divinity - The Singularity


Divinity
The Singularity
Candlelight

It’s a given that the singer in a death metal band is going to sound like a starving werewolf – it’s the first requirement to play the style. But Divinity frontbeast Sean Jenkins sounds positively rabid on The Singularity, every roar and growl the call of some voracious carnivore just one pane of glass away from being unleashed upon a trembling populace. Beg to Consume, indeed. This particular hellbrute is backed by musicians that twist and turn on the proverbial dime, shifting from soaring prog to skullgrinding thrash in an instant, Jenkins ripping at their flesh as they go. Occasionally the transitions don’t move as smoothly as they aught, like a well-dressed epicure leading you into his abode to show off his fine taste in furniture, then beating you to death with a $1000 chair. Most of the time, though, the marriage of majesty and brutality is a happy one, even if brutality definitely wears the pants in the family.

- Michael Toland

City of Fire - s/t


City of Fire
self-titled
Candlelight

The thing that’ll draw attention to City of Fire is the presence of Fear Factory yowler Burton C. Bell and FF/Strapping Young Lad bassist Byron Stroud. But calling this a Fear Factory side project is selling it short. Not that Bell in particular doesn’t give a bravura performance here – he shouts, growls, roars and sings with the best of ‘em. But he’s just part of a massive metal tapestry that pulls in bits of death metal, Tool-like progressive rock, alt.metal, hard rock, psychedelia and even – on the powerhouse opener Carve Your NameKilling Joke. Rather than a mishmash casting about for a consistent style, the record becomes a cohesive set of melodic, majestic metal anthems that will likely appeal to headbangers of all creeds. (Plus Emerald, the obligatory acoustic breathcatcher.) Spirit Guide, Coitus Interruptus and the monstrous and elegiac cover of the Cult’s Rain should attract lighters, fist, horns and air instruments in equal measure.

- Michael Toland
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