Art Is War Records, Cinder - The Machine, Lee Aaron - Power Soul and Rock N' Roll – Live in Germany, Metalville, O Samuli A - Condition Yellow, Rise Above Records, Santa Lucia - Perse Palaa - Complete Recorded Works, SAVAGE MASTER - Myth Magic & Steel, Shadow Kingdom, Shubhangi Joshi Collective - Babelfish, svart records, third eye cinema podcast, Thobbe Englund - Hail to the Priest, VA Rocks - I Love VA Rocks, Various Artists - Brutal Africa - The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana, Various Artists - Cold War on The Rocks - Disco and Electronic Music from Finland 1980-1991, Vesperith, Warsenal - Feast Your Eyes, Workshed
And here’s another brief bit of business to hold y’all over till things return to more of a standard state. Stuff keeps coming in, and there’s a lot of these all ready and waiting…it’s time and life that intervene.
Hey, if this was a paying gig, it might be a different story…as is, follow the words of your favorite 80’s surfer dude and take a chill pill, bro. Good things come to those who wait…
Cinder – The Machine (Art Is War Records) (August 9)
Okay, making an attempt at picking up the slack as this neverending viral assault slows to a trickle (or is that more appropriately described as the dreaded “tickle”?), and the first thing I hear is…the title track to this one.
Well, it’s certainly got a late 90’s/early millenium feel to it, when the borders between fading scenes like grunge, nu metal and industrial were beginning to blur and flow and you could get something like this.
So, what if you took a bit of Alice in Chains, a touch of Buckcherry, light hints of NiN and more than just a whiff of Slipknot…hell, you can just go by the producer credits on these guys’ last record and you’ll see exactly where this one’s going: Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, Godsmack, Puddle of Mudd, Creet, Buckcherry, Seether. Did I mention touring in support of Sevendust, Staind and Papa Roach?
Well, about the only thing of interest here is that their aforementioned last album appears to have never been released, locked in the vaults due to a spat with the label ala Vain’s All Those Strangers...
If you’re into this ballpark sound, I can offer the good news that Cinder’s songs tend to be concise and to the point, and come with a memorably catchy hook, which already leaves ’em a step or two above the bands they’re so obviously sonically aligned with.
But nah, I didn’t like this sort of thing back in the day, and time hasn’t mellowed me all that much.
Dayseeker – Sleeptalk (Spinefarm Records) (September 27)
Well, here’s a new one to me. “Post hardcore”? Is this seriously a genre now?
Well, a few moments of dreamy digital delay-driven Fauntslike riffing with detuned bass and screamo vox on tracks like “crooked soul” and the title cut aside, there’s absolutely nothing about this that says “hardcore”, “punk” or even “emo”.
In fact, the sound is so light and airy, with polished, syrupy multitracked vox and suchlike, you’d be hard pressed to describe this as anything but “top 40 pop with (very) light modern rock leanings”.
The three tracks where they lean more emo (two already mentioned, with an arguable appending of “the color black”) are by far the high points here…the rest should appeal to your country music lovin’ girlfriend.
Dosey-do this one over to the also rans.
We covered their With Whips and Chains, where we noted our appreciation for their decidedly vintage traditional American metal sound and Stacey Savage’s Lee Aaron meets Betsy Bitch by way of Debbie Gunn vocals…and that they hail from Tim Ritter country.
Perhaps picking up on that cue, guess who delivered the amusing Violent Shit homage of a video for the title track? Sure enough, Tim’s at the helm…good to see on both fronts.
There’s really not much to say here that hasn’t already been said – if you came up on the likes of classic Accept, Lizzy Borden and vintage NWOBHM-driven US power/traditional metal, the kind where driving riffs and powerful vocals count far more than a glammy image or studio frippery, you’re a damn fool not to already have this one in your CD player, cranked to house shaking levels.
Raise those horns high!
Workshed – S/T (Rise Above Records) (September 13)
What if Cathedral took the bouncy Sabbathian doom of Carnival Bizarre and took it a few steps further into both sludge and punk-style aggression?
Seriously – it was a bit of a raised eyebrow to discover that this was not a vintage Cathedral reunion. Well, it is, in a way…but as much as it may sound like him (and trust me, it does, that’s not Lee Dorrian on vocals…
But where things do start to make sense is that the the band is in fact comprised of earlier Cathedral members…interestingly, both of whom also served time in the goofy UK comedy/thrash act Acid Reign.
The sound is raw and doomy, but with an edge that suggests as much of the punk-informed HM-2 worship of Nihilist and early Entombed as it does Autopsy or, yes, Cathedral…despite the decidedly Dorrianesque vocals and riffs that lean Soul Sacrifice/Statik Magik era (fittingly enough, that.)
It’s groovy and vibe-y enough to suggest something of a stoner doom influence as well…but it’s about as far as you can get from the laid back trippiness and grunge nods that implies.
Cathedral done right, once again.
Give ’em the nod, it’s well deserved.
Lee Aaron – Power, Soul, and Rock N’ Roll – Live in Germany (Metalville) (September 20)
And speaking of the Metal Queen, here she is in the flesh.
Surprising to hear the lady back tackling this sort of material after so many years of image and sex-driven pop music and jazz chanteuse explorations. Hell, she even found God for a bit, there, turning her back on her earlier work to pursue more of an adult contemporary sound…so again, more than a raise of the eyebrows to see another trip to a well so long abandoned.
There’s a Rainbow cover “mistreated” and “metal queen” gets a cursory revisitation, but the bulk of the material here hails from her more pop based “body rock” era (Call of the Wild, the self titled, Bodyrock, Some Girls Do). Canadian fans more informed by her radio charting hits should be well pleased, but don’t expect more than a stray chorus from “lady of the darkest night” or other metal-era classics – that one title cut is as deep as she goes.
Still in all, the lady’s voice is in more than respectable form after all these years, and it’s nice to hear her working tracks like “powerline” (which contains a quick medley of the aforementioned chorus and solo) and “metal queen” again.
Who knows, maybe a likeminded studio album’s on its way as well.
Thobbe Englund – Hail to the Priest (Metalville) (August 2)
Former Sabaton guitarist does a one man Judas Priest tribute album.
Hats off to the man for hitting up tracks from oft-dismissed albums like Turbo (“reckless”) and Ram it Down (“I’m a rocker”)…hell, even the Ripper Owens-led Jugulator and Halford’s post-Priest Fight project get nods (“burn in hell”, “into the pit”).
As you’d expect from Sabaton, it’s competent, but very much midtempo and unspectacular. As background music or in a laid back, undemanding mood, this stuff works pretty damn well indeed…but you have to ask, is there really a point, particularly when you can easily go back to the originals and hear Halford, Tipton and Downing performing the same songs with more gusto?
By cover album standards? Sure, he hits all the right marks, no major complaints.
But you always have to ask yourself…why?
VA Rocks – I Love VA Rocks (Metalville) (October 18)
When these ladies aren’t pointlessly balladeering (“never in a million years”), they’re either mainlining gasoline, with all the piss and vinegar of Bon Scott-era AC/DC and “no more fucks to give”, or working a crunchy midtempo junkie rock thing ala Zodiac Mindwarp, Circus O Power or Jackyl (“code of the road”).
At a stretch, you might lazily compare them to the likes of The Donnas (“gonna get you”), but that’s a completely different sound and approach. These gals ain’t punk rockers trying to work an updated take on the Ramones or what have you…this is raw sounding, direct through a Marshall head straightforward hard rock with a blues/boogie base (“rebel blood”).
Hell, at times, they almost go vintage Whitesnake with hints of both glam rock and post millenial pop punk (“hit the road”). “Romeo and Juliet” even sounds quite Smithereens-esque, if you can believe that! It’s not always simple to pin ’em down, or as straightforward a take as you’d think at first listen.
Yeah, there are a few moments, a few tracks, even, that I could’ve done without.
But overall? Good traditional stuff, takes no prisoners.
Various Artists – Brutal Africa – The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana (Svart Records) (September 13)
Botswana. Yeah, my entire awareness of the small African region is summed up by a quick nod in Stestasonic’s classic “A.F.R.I.C.A.” and that it’s diamond mining country.
So…apparently they have a small, likely impoverished but highly motivated scene building there, much like emerging scenes such as India, the Arab Emirates and Southeast Asia. But where these nations have comparatively small scenes, they’ve been building in both numbers and quality over time, with India being a particular hotbed for up and comers in the thrash scene.
The African scene, by contrast, feels more like the lucky to record something quick in a studio feel of Southeast Asia, with as few as ten bands in situ at any given time and even less managing to get something on tape during their brief lifespan.
This comp consists of five of those bands, each of whom gets two tracks, and one extra act who only manages one. We’re told in promo materials that some of these bands are already history, and seen as “grandfathers” of the scene, inspirational to bands whose tracks appear immediately thereafter. Yeah, it’s pretty small and low rent.
So it’s a bit of a surprise that while the material itself is pretty damn rough and ready, with most bands opting for a low rent death metal approach…the production isn’t always that bad, particularly by comparison with other scenes where investing large sums in polishing material up in studio simply isn’t an option. Hell, many of these bands sound better productionwise than your average South American blackthrash or “war metal” act!
That duly noted…this one’s strictly for the sociologically curious. What would happen if someone dropped some extreme metal albums and merch instead of a bottle of Coke in The Gods Must Be Crazy?
Taken in that light, this is a fascinating experiment and window into a metaphorical ant farm, if you will – “what may develop in relative isolation, without social checks and balances to say what’s “right” and “wrong”?
Taken purely as a sampler album of unknown metal bands…it’s only fair, with an overall better production value than you’d expect given the parameters of the situation.
Warsenal – Feast Your Eyes (Svart Records) (November 15)
Thrash/speed metal somewhat in the vein of Whiplash, Kublai Khan or Killing is my Business-era Megadeth, but with snarly-puke vocals that come off more Coroner by way of Demolition Hammer, Protector or Living Death.
As such, I really dug the stuttering, ever in motion single note riffing and vintage Megadeth school stylings…but didn’t care for the vox much at all.
With a sound this aggressive, there’s probably no point in suggesting they find a more restrained, less throat polyp-beset frontman…so all I can suggest is trying to tune the guy out and hoping you can enjoy the rest, which is pretty damn solid.
Various Artists – Cold War on The Rocks – Disco and Electronic Music from Finland 1980-1991 (Svart Records) (September 27)
Essentially, if you don’t mind your disco European and synth-driven, Giorgio Moroder meets Yellow Magic Orchestra style (hell, Saigon’s “etsin maailima” could practically hail from Chiemi Manabe’s Harumi Hosono-driven Targeted Girl album), you should be quite comfortable with this one.
Vesperith – S/T (Svart Records) (November 22)
Black ambient. Pleasant female soprano vocals ululate and chant Arabian style lines over long, throbbing space rock drones, track after track until there’s a pathetic Atari Teenage Riot-style burst of drum machine and male shriek vox. Oh, and it all goes quite atonal during these bits.
There’s a lot more of the former than the latter, for what that’s worth…but unless you’re big on crossing Tangerine Dream with Abruptum, there’s really nothing to concern ourselves with here.
Santa Lucia – Perse Palaa – Complete Recorded Works (Svart Records) (August 30)
Strange, almost unclassifable all-female Finnish band. The overall feel of their sole full length release Arktista Hysteriaa is of a gothic rock act with strong metal leanings, a sort of Danzig by way of Samhain driven more by keyboards and the experimental feel of X-Mal Deutschland than the swampy blues rock and punk that drove Glenn and company.
As a comprehensive reissue of all their works, it’s striking how much the album is contrasted by the far more major key oriented, almost cheery feel of their EP Nelja Tunnelia Tuonelaan and the very 80’s metal guitar and keyboard interplay of their demo(s)…and taken as a whole, it leaves classification of Santa Lucia even more difficult than the album would lead listeners to believe.
None of this is unlistenable, but most Third Eye readers will find themselves gravitating far more to the Arktista Hysteriaa material and approach than what came before. However flawed even their best work may be, they were pretty damn young at the time, and that should count in their favor.
O Samuli A – Condition Yellow (Svart Records) (September 20)
Electronic dance. At its best, this evokes the likes of Front 242, BiGod20 and Nitzer Ebb (“lumppaaja”) and you have to laugh when the guy’s essentially using a Speak N’ Spell and a Gameboy to drive his sonic explorations…but while listenable enough, there’s simply not a lot to it, or anything to really recommend about it.
By all means, check out that one track. Just realize it’s an anomaly.
Shubhangi Joshi Collective – Babelfish (August 9)
Okay, here’s a weird one.
Long story short, this one got sent out to various heavier, cult and straight up metal genre reviewers by mistake. No biggie, but the rep was moved to all but formally apologize Japanese yakuza style…which I personally found hilarious.
I mean, the retraction/apology was so effusive in its sheer embarrassment and loss of face, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy…beneath, of course, a rather boisterous bemusment. Could this act be so far out of the general purview as to elicit a kneeling, bowing, take my ring finger in expiation response like this?
Well…hmm. Yes, for sure…but on the other hand…
At their best, the lady in question and her band are working something not a million miles removed from the jazzy J-pop explorations of Mika Nakashima (outside of the L’Arc En Ciel-composed Nana material, anyway), UA or Momoko Kikuichi, arguably as informed by the wispy vocalled, airily accompanied sound of UK shoegazers Lush (“last ticket journey”, “curious cat”), but with more of the insouciance and hipster jazz take UA brought to her first few albums (and compositions for others, like the infectious “look up to the sky”), as shown in tracks like “surfing with the times”).
She even tries to go to Shizuka Kudo levels of sexy on “why stay away” (which reminded this hardcore Kudo aficionado very much of “moon water”).
Yeah, the second half of the album peters off into balladeering and feels far less essential or important than those first four or five tracks.
But if this is the worst mistake a label rep can make? Life’s just smooth sailing.
If you dig the jazzier, more torch inclined end of indie or any of the J-pop referenced herein, you may very well wish to look into Ms. Joshi and company – not what I was expecting in the least.